It all went wrong for the New York Red Bulls against Sporting Kansas City in the first half Saturday when Thierry Henry tried to get to the ball and caught already-on-the-ground Roger Espinoza with a knee to the back. Referee Kevin Stott wasted no time as he showed a red card and sent Henry off leaving the Red Bulls down to ten men.
No matter how many times Henry pleaded with Stott, the color of the card was never going to change. Even on replay, it looked like Henry never bothered to change direction to avoid Espinoza. Before the ejection it looked like Henry was muscled off the ball as it looked to be a clean play.
Stott thought the foul was intentional and after Henry made contact, the Frenchman did turn around to apologize to Espinoza, and then Stott showed the red card. It also looked like Henry was watching the ball and never saw Espinoza, but regardless of what anyone thought, that was the last match of the regular season for Henry.
Sporting Kansas City took advantage after a scoreless first half and scored two brilliant goals to gain the victory. It was a failed clearance on a corner as Stephen Keel tried to head the ball away in the 57th minute. A nice chest pass by Julio Cesar to Teal Bunbury, and then a quick mid-air smack beat Frank Rost.
The other goal came in the 74th minute from substitute C.J. Sapong as he made a quick turn and nailed the ball into the back of the net. It was a great job by Matt Besler and Graham Zusi with the corner, while the ball was delivered by Besler from the near corner and Zusi found a way to get the pass to Sapong for the goal.
With the win, Sporting Kansas City has qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs, which they clinched in front of their fans. For the first time since 2008 they will move ahead to the post-season. But for the New York Red Bulls they faltered once their captain was sent off.
The decision by Stott was harsh and sadly affected the Red Bulls performance in the second half. Some have tweeted that Henry showed intent to injure because he was muscled off the ball. I find that hard to believe that he would try to send a message in a game that his side desperately needed to win.
But regardless of what I think and I do believe that was more of a booking than a sending off, Henry put his side into a position that they should never have been in. Regardless of where they will finish after this Thursday, the Red Bulls are in danger of not making the post season.