Since the insertion of the former Notts County striker Luke Rodgers into the New York Red Bulls side, something special has been happening. They started out slow, but all of a sudden exploded for seven goals at home against the Earthquakes and on the road at DC United. But this time it looked like a strong test was coming to Red Bull Arena as the road warriors Sporting Kansas City came to town.
It would be the only tally of the match, but Rodgers would convert after the quick re-start in the 22nd minute. As Dane Richards was fouled at midfield, Rafa Marquez quickly sent the ball towards the KC area. Thierry Henry with a quick pass to Dwayne DeRosario along the far side attacked, then hit a hard, low cross to an on-coming Rodgers and he converted the strike past keeper Jimmy Nielsen. “It was right place, right time for me.”
Before the match Rodgers suffered a pulled muscle during training this past Thursday and took a fitness test before the match, but sadly he only lasted through the first half. “The last couple of days my knee has been really tight” said Rodgers. “I thought it was OK to get through the start and last through the first forty-five [minutes]. I felt good for thirty minutes, but felt it stiffen up and knew I was done. I hope it’s nothing serious, but they have good physios here and hope it won’t be long term.”
After the goal was scored, ten minutes later the Red Bulls had another chance. Roy Miller took a long distance chance that was stopped by Nielsen, but he spilled the ball. Rodgers saw that and attacked the net. Even though Nielsen did put a hand on the ball, Rodgers tried to score with his right foot, but accidentally hit Nielsen in the face with the left and a big scrum ensued.
“I didn’t catch the keeper. The keeper spilled the ball. I had to go for the ball and I got the ball. Just followed thru and I wasn’t trying to hurt the keeper, but the keeper was fine and I would do the same exact thing again.” But referee Andy Chapman didn’t see it that way and Rodgers was booked for the foul. After the first half was done it was all defense for the Red Bulls in the second as they stonewalled Sporting Kansas City. But at the same time Kansas City couldn’t convert any chance they made for themselves.
But give Jimmy Nielsen credit for stopping the Red Bulls early in the first half. It all started on an early penalty for the Red Bulls in the 14th minute as Dwayne De Rosario was grabbed and fell in the area. Rafa Marquez took the penalty poorly and Nielsen made the big save. Right now the Red Bulls had two chances and converted none. “Yeah that’s one thing. If you get one nil that early, it calms down everything” said Head Coach Hans Back. “First Thierry (Henry), now Rafa (Marquez) will be the next one.”
But right now it looks to be a winning streak with three straight clean sheets for the Red Bulls and only conceding two goals is not bad at all. But now they will prepare for their long distance road trip to Los Angeles and face an old friend in Juan Pablo Angel.