Two goals in three minutes were enough for Sporting Kansas City to surge ahead for a comeback victory over the New York Red Bulls in manager Gerhard Stuber’s debut at Red Bull Arena. The double whammy of a Gabi Kinda penalty and a Daniel Salloi finish canceled out Caden Clark’s characteristically bombastic opener to end the night in a 2-1 Kansas City victory.
The first half saw New York largely overwhelm Sporting with bodies in the midfield as Gerhard Struber’s diamond midfield restricted space. Though unable to break through with a goal before the break, the Red Bulls moved as a unit with new signings leading the way - Fábio Gomes Netto’s hold up play and pressing impressed in particular along with left back Andrew Gutman’s tenacity on both sides of the ball.
New York found their breakthrough soon after play resumed, when the 6’4” Fábio won an aerial ball on a corner kick, knocking it towards Caden Clark who contorted his body to send a looping volley over rookie Kansas City goalkeeper John Pulskamp and into the far corner of the net.
But Sporting reacted quickly and took control soon after. An errant clearance by Kyle Duncan led to a Kansas City siege that ended with Andrew Gutman blocking a cross with his hand - Gabi Kinda put away the resulting penalty to equalize. Just two minutes later Sporting surged ahead. A sweeping cross from Khiry Shelton found Daniel Salloi streaking free of a jogging Duncan at the far post, where he finished easily past a shuffling Carlos Coronel.
An exhausted New York team struggled to react with the same intensity they played with in the first half. Kansas City proceeded to successfully slow the game down while Struber attempted to change the tone of the match with a glut of attacking substitutions - including a professional debut for teenage Venezuelan Wikelman Carmona. Though the occasional long ball trickled through for substitute forwards Tom Barlow and Daniel Royer, the lack of energy was apparent as a series of flick-ons failed to create an opening before the game’s close.
Following the game, Gerhard Struber pinpointed focus and midfield balance as the team’s undoing in his first ever regular season match as Red Bulls manager. Both Kansas City goals occurred soon after the removal of Salzburg loanee Youba Diarra for Florian Valot, and Struber cited Diarra’s quality and the required adjustments from his removal as the key factors in the team’s rapid collapse.
“I think Youba Diarra comes out and we lose our focus. Youba is an important player for us but he is not yet ready (to play 90 minutes) this early and so we have to replace him. We didn’t change anything about our system or tactics.”
Struber expressed disappointment at the result, stating “we expected victory” against Kansas City and added that the 2-1 loss “is not our standard, not our expectation.” He however did express excitement at the team’s pressing and organization in the first half, stating that while it is “a big process” he hopes to implement in New York, the bright first half was exciting to see.
Struber can find solace from the final result in noting this was not quite a full-strength New York team. Despite Struber’s claim that the team was injury-free earlier this week, designated player Dru Yearwood did not dress. Fullback Tom Edwards should soon provide needed competition for Kyle Duncan, and rumored transfers for Cincinnati midfielder Frankie Amaya and Celtic striker Patryk Klimala appear all but completed. New York turns around for a road trip to Southern California to face LA Galaxy next Sunday, hoping perhaps some sunshine and new faces can help Struber earn his first win on this side of the Atlantic.