Sporting Kansas City’s match against the New York Red Bulls on Tuesday night served as the national television precursor to the U.S. men’s national team’s World Cup tuneup. The national side featured two Sporting KC players in its starting lineup — midfielder Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler.
But as Zusi and Besler prepare for a trip to Brazil, their MLS team is still searching for its first victory without them.
The Sporting Kansas City winless streak reached four games Tuesday when the club settled for a 1-1 draw against the Red Bulls in front of the 44th consecutive sellout crowd of 19,221 at Sporting Park.
“We’re extremely disappointed not to get a win in our last few games,” defender Seth Sinovic said. “But we’re a confident team, and we’ll learn from this. We’ll keep pushing. It’s going to come.”
It appeared to be on the way Tuesday.
Sporting KC midfielder Toni Dovale notched his first MLS goal only nine minutes into the match — and nearly added his second later in the game — but New York forward Bradley Wright-Phillips countered after halftime with his league-best 11th goal, taking over the MLS lead from Dom Dwyer.
Sporting KC argued Wright-Phillips was offsides on the play as he darted through the back line.
“I think we got disjointed as a back line,” said Kevin Ellis, who made his second career professional start at center back in place of Besler. “It was a close call. I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but initially I thought it was offsides. It was just one of those 50-50 calls. I wish it would’ve gone our way. We would feel a lot better about the game.”
A team motivated to prove it can win without two of its stars, Sporting KC didn’t need long to make an impression. It produced three quality scoring chances in the first five minutes of the match. Two of them required clearance off the line by New York defenders and the third clanked off the crossbar.
Dovale didn’t miss.
After taking a couple of dribbles to his left, Dovale bent a left-footed shot inside of the far post, drawing a late reaction from Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. Benny Feilhaber was awarded the assist on Dovale’s first goal since signing with Sporting KC in March.
It was well-deserved after Sporting KC saw a handful of early chances negated.
Defender Igor Juliao made a long run down the right side, then lofted a shot over the head of Robles before Red Bulls defender Chris Duvall cleared the attempt from danger. Only two minutes later, forward Sal Zizzo headed a pass from Paulo Nagamura on goal. Robles again needed the aid of a defender, this time Ibrahim Sekagya, to keep the attempt out of the net. In the fifth minute, Feilhaber slammed a set piece off the crossbar.
“We didn’t really put our chances away when we were in there, and that’s the difference,” Dwyer said. “We started off great, but then we slowed down a little.”
Sporting KC, 5-4-4, outshot New York 8-1 in the opening half and held the Red Bulls without a shot on goal.
New York responded after halftime.
The Red Bulls, 3-5-6, peppered Kronberg early in the second half, with Wright-Phillips securing the game-tying goal in the 50th minute off a through ball from Thierry Henry, who made his 100th MLS start Tuesday.
Kronberg was tested often over the next 10 minutes, stoning shots from both Wright-Phillips and Henry to keep the match tied. The teams finished with four shots on goal apiece.
Those saves allowed Dovale a chance at the game-winning score in the 79th minute, but Robles made a sprawling save to negate his left-footed strike.
Sporting KC will travel to face D.C. United at 6 p.m. Saturday, the final of its seven games in May.