It may have been Peter Vermes 300th MLS regular-season game in charge of Sporting KC, but he won’t look back on Saturday evening’s game fondly, as Sporting KC fell 3-2 to New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.
The result extends Sporting KC’s winless streak to four as their once-staunch hold at the top of the Western Conference slipped further and further away. Injuries to key players continue to plague Vermes’ team, as players who typically don’t play consecutive games are now being asked to hold consistent first team positions.
“We’ve got to figure out a way of how to still get results,” Vermes said after the game during a phone interview. “We’ve been doing it for a while, but I can see some of the guys who are coming in are mentally tired.”
A pair of powerful strikes from outside the box by Red Bulls supersub Marc Rzatkowski allowed New York to overcome a 2-1 deficit.
The result was maybe written on the wall for Sporting KC, as starting center-backs Ike Opara and Matt Besler were both ruled out of the game, suffering from a hamstring injury and back spasms, respectively.
Young center-backs Emiliano Amor and Graham Smith played in their place, and while playing well for most part of the game, moments of inexperience on their part as well as lack of support from the midfield were ultimately the downfall for Vermes’ men.
“I think we gave too many gaps away in the middle of the midfield, which allowed the other team to have too much opportunity. We were just never close to guys,” Vermes said. “So I think that affected mentally, so when you gives guys wide open shots from the distances we did, they have enough weapons on their team they can hurt you.”
Heading into the game, New York had scored the most goals in the league within the opening 15 minutes of a game (9), and that trend continued against Sporting KC who has been sluggish during the first half recently.
Finding a gap in between Amor and Smith in the 4th minute, veteran Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips controlled a pass before chipping the ball over goalkeeper Tim Melia. Originally called as offside, head referee Kevin Stott consulted the Virtual Assistant Referee before deeming Wright-Phillips was onside and allowing the goal to stand.
The space allowed Wright-Phillips, as well as the hesitancy from Smith after he stopped his run once the linesman raised his flag, allowed the Red Bulls forward plenty of time to place the ball past Melia.
Sporting KC leveled the score just four minutes later as forward Johnny Russell netted his seventh goal of the season, which was followed by a rocket of a strike early in the second half by midfielder Roger Espinoza for his first goal of the season.
The two goals marked only the second time this season a traveling team has scored two goals at Red Bull Arena. The previous was a 2-1 victory for the Chicago Fire on April 20.
But a pair of stunning strikes from Rzatkowski in the 72nd and 79th minutes gave New York a 3-2 lead it would ultimately hold onto.
“It was a great goal, he took it well. But we weren’t intense in our defending,” Vermes said. “We didn’t defend as if it was a situation in which they could score. And so defending in that way gave them a lot of time and they had enough weapons on their team so they could strike.”
The relentless schedule for Vermes’ young squad continues on Wednesday, as they face the MLS Supporters Shield defending champions Houston Dynamo in the U.S. Open Cup. The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium.