Almost a year to the day after notching his last MLS goal, Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin headed home a Graham Zusi corner kick in the 13th minute Wednesday against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
That was enough to secure a 1-0 win for Sporting KC, 4-1-2, which notched its fifth straight shutout and extended its shutout streak to 519 minutes.
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“Prior to the game, we talked about how we saw some opportunities on set pieces,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said. “It was a great ball by Zeus, but it was also a great run by Collin with their guy all over him. For him to be able to get off the header with power, it was a great goal. Very good timing on the entire play.”
Collin — who last scored during a 3-1 win April 18, 2012, at the Vancouver Whitecaps FC — muscled through Red Bulls centerback Jamison Olave and beat goalkeeper Luis Robles inside the right post for the game-winner.
Left back Seth Sinovic ripped a shot from 20 yards out that Robles had to tip over the bar, setting up Sporting KC’s third corner kick in the early going.
And the third time was the charm as Zusi ripped a low, out-swinging corner that Collin met 10 yards from the near post before powering through Olave to get his head on the end of the pass.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities and I’m just blessed that next goal finally came,” said Collin, who now has seven career MLS goals. “Hopefully, I can keep it going.”
The Red Bulls nearly knotted things up immediately.
Juninho floated a 45-yard free kick toward Olave at the back post in the 16th minute, but goalkeeper and captain Jimmy Nielsen came off his line and punched it away.
Forward Thierry Henry corralled the rebound and took a rip at Nielsen, but the reigning MLS goalkeeper of the year was equal to the task again.
The Red Bulls’ best chance to equalize came in the 64th minute when defender Matt Besler misjudged a cross to the top of Sporting KC’s box, allowing the ball to reach Henry for a free run into the box.
Wary of an on-rushing Nielsen, Henry tried to bury the equalizer inside the right post with the outside of his foot, but pushed the chance inches wide wit left back Seth Sinovic desperately closing in along with Nielsen.
“When he gets those types of chances, he scores nine out of 10 times,” Nielsen said. “Lucky for us today, that was the one he missed, because he’s an absolutely outstanding player — one of the best in this league.”
Ultimately, the Red Bulls joined a long list of teams unable to solve Sporting KC’s defense.
“Last year, we were the best defense and this year we’re still the best defense,” Collin said. “It’s a great reflection of the whole team. We gave up a couple chances tonight, but thank god they didn’t score.”