Sporting Kansas City-Red Bulls Preview
Peter Vermes expects a tricky MLS opener for Sporting Kansas City against a New York Red Bulls outfit that will "come out flying".
The Red Bulls have had the benefit of a full preseason under new coach Gerhard Struber, an exciting appointment last season who only made his coaching bow for the club in the playoffs due to delays obtaining a visa before serving a quarantine period. His debut was a defeat to the eventual MLS Cup winners, the Columbus Crew.
The Red Bulls should now be up to speed on Struber's high-octane style, however.
"There's a lot to be found out in these early games for individual players," Vermes said. "We're also going up against a team in New York where it probably couldn't be a tougher opponent because they're going to come out flying. It's not like we're easing into a game where the other team is going to feel us out. No, they're coming with the high press and running everywhere. From the opening whistle, we're going to have to be on top of our game."
"Many things are going in the right direction, progress can be seen," said Struber of his team. "But we are only at the starting point for certain tactical aspects. The development of the team will be the focus in the coming weeks and months."
Sporting KC topped the West last season but was stunned by Minnesota United in the playoffs, going down 3-0 at its own Children's Mercy Park home.
New York Red Bulls – Caden Clark
It is no secret this season will be Clark's last in New York. He has agreed a transfer to RB Leipzig, according to multiple reports. The teenager scored three times in eight games in his debut 2020 season, with only six players his junior appearing in MLS last year.
Sporting Kansas City – Nicolas Isimat-Mirin
Matt Besler has been a Sporting KC stalwart, making a joint-record 312 appearances for the club in MLS competitions. He has now departed for Austin FC, though. New signing Isimat-Mirin, a former France youth international, should have the experience to fill in but will be tested by the Red Bulls.
- Including playoffs, the Red Bulls have lost only two of their past 10 matches against Sporting Kansas City in MLS (W5 D3) dating back to 2013. This will be the second time the Red Bulls and Sporting KC open the season against one another, also doing so in a 1-1 draw in Kansas City to start the 2015 season.
- Including their playoff loss to Columbus, the Red Bulls found the net in each of their final 12 games last season. It is New York's longest run of matches with a goal since scoring in 15 straight from July to October 2016.
- Sporting KC earned the top seed in the West on the back of their away form, losing only two of nine away matches in 2020 (W5 D2). They won their last two on the road (1-0 at FC Cincinnati, 2-0 at Real Salt Lake), though they have not won three away matches in a row since a five-match run in June and July 2014.
- The Red Bulls were one of four teams (also Atlanta United, DC United and Cincinnati) without a five-goal scorer during the 2020 regular season. Brian White was directly involved in five of the Red Bulls' final eight goals of the regular season (four goals, one assist) after contributing to just one goal in his first 13 appearances this season.
- Including the playoffs, Sporting KC's final 11 goals in the 2020 MLS season were scored by nine different players. Only Gadi Kinda and Roger Espinoza (two each) scored more than one of those goals.
Updated April 16, 2021