Before today's game I had prepared myself for Sporting KC's season to end. Kansas City had struggled with too many injuries and were too worn out from all the missed games. Still, with the season actually ending it's still disappointing, especially with it ending in the manner that it did for Kansas City, with Bradley Wright-Phillips scoring his sixth goal of the season against Kansas City in second half stoppage time to bring New York from a 1-0 deficit to a 2-1 win.
Sporting came out with a different strategy than they did for much of the season. Instead of using the high pressure that KC has used for most of Peter Vermes tenure as coach, KC started the game sitting further back, attempting to absorb pressure and tried to hit New York on the counter. This allowed New York a lot of possession and pressure in KC's end of the field. In the 17th minute, Tim Cahill missed an open opportunity after a deflected shot fell to his feet at the top of the six. Cahill though fired the shot over Eric Kronberg's goal as the game stayed tied 0-0. New York kept pressure as Wright-Phillips missed with an open header in the 32nd minute. Thierry Heny also had a chance later in the half, curling a shot wide of Kronberg's far post. Kansas City did start to create some chances of their own on the counter and really should have taken the lead. Dom Dwyer held off Jamison Olave on a long ball from Aurelien Collin. Dwyer was able to get his head up and laid a ball right towards the penalty spot for an on running Paulo Nagamura who fired his shot right at Luis Robles who held on for the save. Shortly after that, CJ Sapong helped to set up Dwyer with a similar pass, but Dwyer's effort was blocked out for a corner by Olave as the two teams went into the half time break tied at 0-0.
Early in the second half the Red Bulls again had a great opportunity. Off a long set piece into the box, Kronberg came out attempting to punch the ball away, but only put it into the path of Dax McCarty. With the goal wide open though, McCarty put his header from the top of the box wide of the KC goal. Kronberg was making a habit of coming off of his line a lot in the game trying to keep New York from getting open headers or chances in the box. With all the pressure seeming to be coming from New York, it was actually KC that grabbed the lead in the 53rd minute. After a restart the Red Bulls were slowly, almost lazily bringing the ball up field. Henry played the ball into the center circle for Eric Alexander who was pressured by Dwyer. Alexander's touch took the ball right into the path of Benny Feilhaber who was racing to help Dwyer pressure the Red Bulls midfielder. Feilhaber won the ball and raced down field in a 2v4 situation. With both McCarty and Olave looking to close him down, Feilhaber slid a ball against the flow of the players into the path of Dwyer who one timed his shot past Robles and into the net to make it 1-0 KC. The Red Bulls almost responded immediately with Alexander making amends. An Henry cross was headed back across goal by Lloyd Sam for Alexander, but Matt Besler did a good job recovering to knock the ball wide for a corner. Just when it started to look like KC might hold on, New York scored. A ball was played in to substitute, Peguy Luyindula. Luyindula took a touch and turned on Jorge Claros to face up field. KC right back Kevin Ellis immediately pushed up to pressure the ball leaving Henry alone. Ellis pushing up allowed Luyindula to play the ball through to Henry beating Claros, Ellis, and Graham Zusi who was also there in one pass. Henry ran onto the ball as it went towards the end line with Collin sliding over to cover him. This led to Wright-Phillips being unmarked and Besler being stuck between two Red Bulls attackers. Henry picked out Wright-Phillips who fired a shot that went through Besler's legs and past Kronberg and into the net to tie the game. With the game tied, New York continued to pressure, finding chances. In the 90th minute, New York found a winner, a lofted ball into the box by Ambroise Oyongo was headed into net by Wright-Phillips for his second of the game. Like on New York's first goal there were plenty of defensive break downs as Besler appeared to make a run to the near post, expecting Wright-Phillips to continue his run. Collin, who was behind Wright-Phillips didn't make a play for the ball, and Kronberg, who'd been coming for everything all night decided that this was a good time to stay home. Wright-Phillips headed the ball towards the back post where it hit off the post and went into the net giving New York the lead. KC tried to find chances late, but couldn't and ended up seeing their title defense fall at the first hurdle in the playoffs.
Wizards Man of the Match - Benny Feilhaber - If only for the assist to Dwyer which was an absolute thing of beauty that I will be watching all offseason as a way to help me cope.
Player Ratings - Kronberg 2, Ellis 2, Collin 2, Besler 3, Sinovic 3, Claros 3, Nagamura 4, Feilhaber 5, Sapong 3, Dwyer 5, Zusi 3. Subs Peterson NR.