Saturday was a big night for soccer in New York. As the New York Cosmos found a late winner to mark their return to the field with a 2-1 victory, the New York Red Bulls put on a counter-attacking clinic in Kansas City, riding a three goal performance to a 3-2 win that puts them on top of the Eastern Conference.
First, to Kansas City. Sporting was riding a 518 minute shut-out streak that dated back to 2011 against New York, with a home field advantage and NY's poor road form, and with New York missing Tim Cahill (out 3-4 weeks with a torn PCL from last week's ugly challenge), it seemed like this would be one to write off for the Red Bulls. Sporting shelled them early, but a great through ball from Dax McCarty put Jonny Steele in, who drilled an acute shot past Jimmy Nielsen to open the scoring in the 27th minute. As with last week, the Red Bulls would blunder right before half time, allowing Kei Kamara to pounce on a rebound to level the game as the teams went into the tunnel.
The second half was all about subs, and Lloyd Sam's insertion in the 60 minute proved a game changer. Just three minutes after coming on, Sam would spring Espindola (who was barely kept onside by a sloppy performance from SKC defender Aurelin Collin), who would find his seventh goal of the season. Then an inspired throw from Luis Robles immediately after making a save found Steele far upfield with Sam racing up alongside him. Steele threaded the ball to Sam, who cut back to lose Dom Dwyer and smack it home for NY's third.
New York would have to bunker to close out the match—a late stoppage time goal from Dwyer pulled the game back to 3-2, and a hard collision from Seth Sinovic knocked Kosuke Kimura out of the game with a concussion and a perforated ear drum, forcing RBNY to finish the game with 10 men. But New York had done enough to seal the victory, and with practically every other result falling their way (a Montreal loss at DC, a Philly loss to Chicago, RSL drawing at Colorado), the Red Bulls find themselves two points clear in the East and level with RSL for the Supporters' Shield.
Full highlights from the match:
"I’m extremely proud of our team. We showed character today," beamed Coach Mike Petke (who was sent off in the 99th minute). "Sporting is a phenomenal team and they showed that today...We knew it was going to be tough coming into this game. We knew how well they played. We were looking to do a little more counterattacking today and the counterattacking goals worked to a T."
After three big results over conference leaders, the Red Bulls' schedule eases in August. They travel to Columbus next week, with matches against Philadelphia, Chivas, and DC United following later in the month. A perfect August is achievable, and would go a great deal towards the battle for the Supporters' Shield.
Out on Long Island, nearly 12,000 fans attended the long-awaited return of the New York Cosmos at Hofstra University, and were sent home happy after a late winner from Alessandro Noselli sealed the victory over Fort Lauderdale. Peri Marošević opened the scoring for the reincarnated Cosmos in the first half, but Noselli's header became necessary after Walter Restrepo equalized in a very physical second half.
Captain Carlos Mendes, who left the game with an injury, spoke of the honor to play for the historic club. "We had a good preseason and leading up to this with all the excitement, we could feel the energy. It was an incredible atmosphere. As players it gives you the extra push. We want to thank all the fans and we’re just happy that we could get the three points. That’s what we’re here to do to continue the Cosmos tradition and win games.”
The Cosmos next take on Tampa Bay and Carolina on the road before returning home on August 24th to battle San Antonio.