Red Bulls hand Wizards critical loss
The Kansas City Wizards attempted an MLS season-high 26 shots on Saturday but were turned back by a career-night from New York goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul as the first-place Red Bulls prevailed 1-0 at Red Bull Arena.
An early strike went a long way for the Red Bulls.
New York midfielder Dane Richards scored the game’s lone goal in the sixth minute. Then Coundoul posted a career-high with 12 saves to make the early lead stand up despite Kansas City’s relentless bid for a comeback.
"It’s always tough when you go into a game and you give up a goal in the first six minutes, and then you’re chasing the game," Wizards coach Peter Vermes said. "The good thing is, I think we reacted well and put a lot of pressure on them to get chances. Obviously we left ourselves open a couple of times for them to get the killer dagger in with the next blow, but I thought most of the time we did a good job of reacting well. There were a couple times we put ourselves in a predicament late in the game. I think the chances we created were quality, and it was good work. We knew how we wanted to come in and play, and I thought we created a lot of them, we got behind them a quite a bit, we just didn’t have the finishing touch, that’s for sure."
The Wizards remain in third place in the Eastern Conference and are now seven points out of the final playoff spot, held by San Jose, who they will face at home in the regular season finale on Saturday, Oct. 23. The potentially pivotal match is one of two home games remaining for Kansas City with four games left to play in the 2010 regular season.
New York gained an early lead in the sixth minute on an opportune play by Richards. The Jamaican National Team player was the target of a throw-in from Red Bulls midfielder Chris Albright, but Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad intercepted the pass. Conrad attempted a clearance after controlling the bouncing ball, but Richards made contact with Conrad’s foot in mid-strike that disrupted the attempt. Richards pounced on the loose ball and bent a left-footed shot inside the far post for his fourth goal in his past five games.
The Wizards responded with a barrage of scoring chances, putting the pressure on the New York backline with strikers Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury and Josh Wolff attacking from all angles. Wolff and Kamara linked up early on a pair of shots, but Wolff’s first-time volley went wide in the 10th minute and Kamara’s run into the box ended with his shot blocked out for a corner in the 13th minute.
In the 15th minute, the Wizards nearly turned the tables on New York by capitalizing on a turnover in their defensive end. Wolff fed Bunbury, who took a great first touch but placed his shot just wide. Bunbury tried again in the 22nd minute off a cross from defender Michael Harrington, but Coundoul denied it.
Conrad nearly pulled Kansas City even in the 26th minute but his header off a free kick from defender Roger Espinoza went narrowly wide. One minute later, Kamara took his turn to test Coundoul but couldn’t beat him to the near post.
On the opposite end, Wizards goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen made his third save of the first half with a superb stop on Juan Pablo Angel in the 36th minute. Angel created space at the top of the penalty area and unleashed a shot from 20 yards out but Nielsen stood strong to make the save.
Bunbury, who set a new single-game career high with seven shots on Saturday, caught Coundoul off guard with a shot from 25 yards out in the 37th minute, but Coundoul made a diving save. The Wizards had another free kick opportunity come close in the 42nd minute, as midfielder Craig Rocastle flicked a header on frame following a service from captain Davy Arnaud.
Richards threatened once more in the final minute of the first half but shot wide after receiving a pass from midfielder Tony Tchani.
The Wizards continued to attack without abandon throughout the final 45 minutes, including an immediate opportunity off the second half’s opening whistle. Bunbury drew a free kick just outside the penalty area and Kamara’s shot off the set piece had finally beaten Coundoul, but crashed into the crossbar and back into play.
Bunbury then broke through behind the Red Bulls defense in the 57th minute, but couldn’t slip his shot underneath Coundoul on the breakaway effort. Less than a minute later, New York countered through Richards on the right side and his bid for a second goal in the game skimmed off the outside of the near post.
In the 59th minute, Wolff had a glimpse of goal but Coundoul arrived at the through ball just as Wolff tried to poke it past him. The rebound fell to Bunbury outside the box, but Coundoul recovered in time to collect the ball as Bunbury tried to create space for a shot into the deserted goal.
New York superstar Thierry Henry was largely contained by the Wizards' defense in his 74 minutes of action, but he was at his best in the 63rd minute when he cut inside Conrad before missing to the back post with a right-footed shot.
Kansas City inserted midfielder Jack Jewsbury in the 71st minute to add to the attack, and it almost paid off five minutes later. Jewsbury lined up a shot from distance that was destined for the back of the net but Coundoul tipped it over at the last second.
Nielsen responded with a fantastic save of his own in the 78th minute as he made a kick save from close range on Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere. Nielsen, a 2010 All-Star, made four saves in the match and now has 76 on the season, fourth best in MLS.
Kansas City refused to concede defeat in the game’s dying moments, first with an acrobatic shot from second half substitute Birahim Diop, but Coundoul made a diving save to preserve the victory in the second minute of stoppage time. Then in the game’s final minute, a Wizards free kick in a dangerous position outside the edge of the penalty area led to a designed piece of deception. The set piece was slipped to Wolff unmarked in the penalty area, but the veteran’s sliding shot was once again saved to deny Wolff a second last-gasp goal in as many weeks.
The Red Bulls secured their spot in the 2010 MLS Cup playoffs, and coupled with a scoreless draw in Columbus, moved New York into first place in the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards next play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9, at CommunityAmerica Ballpark against the Seattle Sounders. Tickets are still available for the match, which will be Breast Cancer Awareness Night for the Wizards as they raise funds for the Young Survivors Coalition Kansas City.