With a week to spare, Sporting Kansas City clinched a spot in the 2011 MLS Cup playoffs thanks to a 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls yesterday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. KC's early pressure nearly paid off inside the first minute off a corner kick. Graham Zusi's corner went through to the back side. The ball got played back into the middle for an unmarked Aurelien Collin. Collin's header was off target from about 6 yards out that would have given KC a very early lead. The early pressure continued shortly after with Kei Kamara getting played in behind by Chance Myers. Kamara played a cross through the box but Omar Bravo's sliding attempt was a little too late and the ball slid by. New York created a great chance shortly after as Joel Lindpere beat Myers down the line. Lindpere squared the ball into the middle for Luke Rodgers. Rodgers though whiffed on his attempt and the ball fell to Dane Richards. Richards lined up and fired a shot that Jimmy Nielsen had to palm away. In the 27th minute the game took a big turn in Kansas City's favor. Thierry Henry after having a few tussles with KC players lost the ball to Roger Espinoza. Espinoza then slid the ball to Zusi who started making his way up field. With Espinoza on the ground Henry started running towards the ball and kneed Espinoza in the back. Referee Kevin Stott immediately reached for his red card, sending off the former French international. Watching the replays it certainly seems like there's enough intent from Henry on the play to warrant the red card.
With KC up a man they started to control the game more and should have probably opened the score. Teal Bunbury had multiple chances after the red card to put KC up, but was unable to put any of those chances away. Early in the second half though, Bunbury finally put one away giving KC the lead. Again off a set piece from Zusi was headed back into the middle of the box from the back post, the Red Bulls partially cleared the ball to Julio Cesar who touched the ball down for Bunbury who hit it on the side volley. The strike flew past Frank Rost and KC went up 1-0. KC continued to control the game after the goal and a second was always coming for KC. Only a few minutes after entering the game CJ Sapong doubled the lead. Again off a corner, Zusi played the ball to the back side of the box where Matt Besler headed the ball back in the middle of the box. Sapong laid out, getting his foot on the ball ahead of Roy Miller, knocking the ball into the net, effectively ending the game. Sapong almost had a second a little later. After receiving the ball, he turned Tim Ream, got around him and fired a shot that while powerful was right at Rost and the German was able to palm the ball away. New York wasn't able to get any real sustainable pressure late in the game, Nielsen had a few minor saves to make, but nothing too bad as KC shutout the Red Bulls, clinched a playoff spot, and moved back into a tie with Philadelphia for the top spot in the East (and ahead of the Union on goals scored at this point).
WIZARDS Man of the Match - Graham Zusi - Zusi had a fantastic game, KC seemed to have a plan of going to the far post and heading back into the middle on each corner and he did it to perfection, Both of KC's goals came from those situations and KC easily could have had another 1 or 2 goals from those corners. Also if Bunbury had finished better he could have had another assist or two. A great day by the midfielder.
Honorable Mention - Teal Bunbury
Player Ratings - Nielsen 6, Myers 6, Collin 6, Besler 7, Sinovic 6, Cesar 6, Espinoza 6, Zusi 8, Kamara 7, Bunbury 8, Bravo 6. Subs Arnaud 6, Sapong 7, Saad NR.