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Sporting KC Extends Lead Atop East with 2-0 Road Victory at New York

September 19, 2012 - Major League Soccer (MLS) Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City earned a decisive 2-0 road victory at the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday to extend the team's lead atop the Eastern Conference to four points with five games remaining. Now unbeaten in seven straight, Sporting Kansas City earned their first victory at Red Bull Arena in club history and snapped the Red Bulls home-unbeaten streak at 16 games.

Both goals were scored in the opening 20 minutes of the match, first by C.J. Sapong in the 12th minute followed by Kei Kamara's blazing header seven minutes later. Jimmy Nielsen claimed his 12th shutout of the 2012 season, the most in the League, and Sporting Kansas City held New York scoreless at home for the first timethis year.

With the win, Sporting Kansas City has earned 26 points on the road this season, an all-time club record, and has 16 victories on the season to tie the team's 2000 campaign for the most wins in regulation in club history.

Eager to take the lead early, Sporting Kansas City put the pressure on the Red Bulls right out of the gate. In the fifth minute, Chance Myers made a slick pass to Kamara at the top of the box. The Sierra Leone international turned and took a driving shot that was just wide of the right post.

Just seven minutes later, Sporting Kansas City took the lead when Graham Zusi's free kick banged off the crossbar and was sent back toward goal by Matt Besler. His pass was settled by Sapong, who turned and shot low past Bill Gaudette for his seventh goal of the season.

The goal was the 11th allowed by New York in the opening 15 minutes of a match, the mostearly goals conceded in MLS this season, and gave Sporting Kansas City a wave of momentum which would be seized upon in seven minutes time.

In the 19th minute, Zusi's corner kick was received by a perfectly-timed leap from Kamara at the near post and headed in to double the visitors' advantage. The goal marked Zusi's 14th assist of the season, most among all MLS players, and Kamara set a new single-season career high with his team-leading 11th goal of the year.

Two minutes later, the stunned home side was less than complacent and had two rapid-fire shots of their own courtesy of the team's three Designated Players. Wilman Conde charged down the left flank and crossed to Tim Cahill, making a run down the center, but the Australian overshot his header. Moments afterward, RafaMarquez snatched the ball from Julio Cesar, ran at Sporting KC's defense and slotted the ball to former French international Thierry Henry. His lunging,left-footed shot soared over the crossbar with Nielsen coming off his line to apply pressure.

Both sides were relatively quiet for the ensuing 20 minutes. Marquez took a hopeful attempt at the top of the box in the 43rd minute only to be denied by goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. Aminute later, Cahill received a cross from Connor Lade and made a solid header that went wide once again, sending Sporting Kansas City into halftime in prime position.

The Red Bulls inserted Kenny Cooper, the League's second-leading scorer, to start the second half and he immediately made an impact, taking a shot from distance that was swept up by Nielsen in the 52nd minute. Cooper continued to make his presence felt with a quick run toward goal before passing to Henry continuing his run across the box. Henry chipped the ball to Cooper, but his header was just wide.

Still looking to get back in the game with only 25 minutes left in the match, Conde made came forward from his spot on the backline and served in a well-timed cross for Henry. The former Arsenal star attempted to tip the ball in with his head but it went over the crossbar.

The Red Bulls again challenged Nielsen in the 77th minute with a close-range shot from Cooper and a follow-up effort from Lloyd Sam that saw Nielsen make his most hard-fought save of the evening.

On the counterattack, Zusi danced through New York's backline and laid the ball off for Roger Espinoza on the right side. The Honduran's cross found the awaiting head of Kamara but Gaudette was there to make a noble save.

Once again in the 80th minute, Nielsen was forced to make a sliding save when a pass from Le Toux took a deflection and required an alert stop from the MLS All-Star.

Sporting Kansas City looked to bag a third goal in the 87th minute when Kamara held up the ball in the box and passed the Zusi. The U.S. Men's National Teammidfielder took a low, driving shot that Gaudette did well to deny.

New York continued to fight back in the dying stages of the match, most notably in the fourth minute of stoppage time when a series of close-range opportunities from Henry, Cooper and Lade were snuffed out by Sporting Kansas City's backline.

The victory earns Sporting Kansas City the upper-hand in the all-time series, which nowstands at 18-17-10 in Sporting KC's favor, and sets the stage for two team's third and final meeting on October 20th at Red Bull Arena.

Following Wednesday's win, Sporting Kansas City will remain on the road with a short turnaround to face the Montreal Impact at 12 p.m. CT on Saturday at Stade Saputo. The match will be broadcast live on KCTV5 and La Gran D 1340 AM.

FAST FACTS:

* Sporting Kansas City is now 16-7-6 on the season and remains in first place in the Eastern Conference with 54 points. * Sporting Kansas City's 54 points surpasses the team's total from last season when the club finished in first place in the East and are second most in MLS in 2012 behind only the San Jose Earthquakes. * Sporting KC is averaging 1.86 points per game this season, also second-best in MLS behind San Jose. * The team's 54 points are second most in club history, behind only the 2000 MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield season when the club earned 57 points in the 32-game regular season. * Sporting Kansas City is now unbeaten in their last seven MLS matches, the longest active unbeaten streak in MLS. It matches the team's longest undefeated stretch of the season, dating back to the first seven games when Sporting KC went 7-0-0. * Sporting Kansas City has five games remaining in the regular season with two at home and three on the road. * With the win, Sporting Kansas City takes the lead in the all-time regular season series, moving their record versus the New York Red Bulls to 18-17-10. * The victory was Sporting Kansas City's first at Red Bull Arena since it's opening in 2010 and the two goals scored were the first for the team at the venue. Sporting KC is now 4-10-7 on the road in the series all-time. * Sporting KC played New York for the second time in the regular season on Wednesday. Sporting KC has the advantage in the series during 2012 going 1-0-1. * The two clubs will play a third and final time during the regular season on October 20 at Red Bull Arena. * Wednesday's attendance (10,286) at Red Bull Arena was the lowest attendance for a Sporting KC match in MLS play this season. * Sporting KC made one change to their starting 11 from the last time these two teams met, with C.J. Sapong on for the injured Teal Bunbury. New York made three changes, with Thierry Henry on for Kenny Cooper, Rafa Marquez on for Jan Gunnar Solli and Joel Lindpere on for Sebastien Le Toux. * Sporting KC is 8-4-2 on the road this season, the best road record in MLS, and 71-131-59 all-time on the road. * With the three points, Sporting Kansas City has tallied the most points by the club away from home in team history with 26. * Since 2000, only three MLS teams have earned more than 26 points on the road in asingle season. * With Wednesday's win, Sporting Kansas City has won three straight MLS matches on the road for the second time this season. * Prior to 2012, the team had only accomplished the feat once in the non-shootout era, with three straight road wins in August 2005. * Sporting Kansas City is 210-206-106 all-time. * Sporting KC has the most wins (16) and best goal differential (+12) of all teams in the Eastern Conference this season. * Sporting Kansas City is now 8-1-1 when leading at the half in 2012 and 13-2-3 when scoring first this season. * Sporting Kansas City has won their last 17 matches in MLS competition (including playoffs) when leading at the75-minute mark. * Leading into the match, Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls had a combined point total of 100 points. Wednesday's match was the first in MLS this season in which the two teams had a combined point total of 100 or more. * Sporting Kansas City striker C.J. Sapong scored the first goal of the match in the 12th minute. * Sapong has now scored in back-to-back matches, following a span of 12 consecutive games without a goal from the Virginia native. * The goal marks Sapong's seventh goal in MLS this year and 13th of his career in MLS competition (including playoffs). The club is now 12-0-1 in MLS competition (including playoffs) when Sapong scores. * Matt Besler earned the assist on the play, his second of the year. The assist marked the 300th assist on the road in club history. * Kamara added the second goal for Sporting Kansas City off a corner kick taken by Graham Zusi. * The goal was Sporting Kansas City's 12th goal scored on a header this season and 10th header goal allowed by New York in 2012. * Sporting Kansas City has not allowed a header goal in its last 18 games. * The goal was Sporting Kansas City's fifth goal scored on a corner kick this season and fifth goal allowed from a corner by New York this season. * The goal marks Kamara's eleventh goal in 2012 and second of the season against the Red Bulls. With the goal,Kamara sets a new single-season career high. * The goal was the 31st goal in his KC career, tying Mo Johnston for 5th most all-time on the club's goal-scoring chart. * Zusi's assist marks his 14th assist in 2012, which leads the League. * Zusi's assist on Wednesday was the 22nd of his career in regular season play and moves him into a tie for seventh place on the team's all-time chart with Kerry Zavagnin. * Zusi has assists in six of his last eight matches for Sporting KC. * Sporting Kansas City has scored 35 of the team's 37 goals from inside the penalty area in 2012. * Sporting Kansas City has won 14 of their last 15 matches in MLS competition (including playoffs) when scoring two or more goals (14-0-1). * Roger Espinoza received a yellow card on Wednesday and will miss Sporting Kansas City's match against the Montreal Impact on Saturday due to caution accumulation. * Aurelien Collin started the 50th MLS match of his career (including playoffs) * Espinoza surpassed 8,000 minutes played during the regular season in his KC career on Wednesday. He becomes only the third current Sporting KC player to surpass the milestone. * Julio Cesar surpassed 4,000 minutes played in his MLS career (including playoffs) on Wednesday. * With 90 minutes played in tonight's match, Graham Zusi surpassed 6,000 minutes played in his MLS career (including playoffs). * Jacob Peterson surpassed 8,000 minutes played during the regular season in MLS play on Wednesday night. * Chance Myers surpassed 6,000 minutes played in his MLS career (including playoffs) on Wednesday night. * Wednesday's game marked the seventh time the New York Red Bulls found themselves trailing at the half. New York is now 0-7-0 when trailing at the half. * The loss marks the first time the Red Bulls have lost at home in 2012 and snapped a streak of 16 straight games without a home loss dating back to September 21, 2011 in a 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake. * The New York Red Bulls are now 10-1-3 at home in 2012. * Wednesday's match was the fourth time the Red Bulls were shutout in 2012 and the first time New York was held scoreless at home since July 9, 2011 in a 1-0 loss to D.C. United. * Sporting Kansas City has allowed the fewest goals in MLS during the 2012 season with 25. Conversely, the New York Red Bulls have scored the most goals by an EasternConference team in 2012 with 49. * Sporting Kansas City has allowed only 14 goals on the road this season in 14 matches, the fewestroad goals allowed in the League. * Jimmy Nielsen is the only Sporting KC to have played every minute for the club this season. * Nielsen's 1.06 career goals against average in the regular season is tied for the best mark in MLS history among goalkeepers with 4,000 minutes played. * Nielsen's 0.86 goals against average this season is on pace to be the best mark in club history,surpassing Tony Meola's 0.92 goals against average in 2000. * Nielsen leads MLS with 16 victories and 12 shutouts this season. * With the victory, Nielsen's breaks a tie with Tony Meola (2000) for the second most wins by a goalkeeper in club history with 16. * Sporting KC is 7-0-1 when scoring two goals in 2012 and 10-0-2 when allowing zero goals this season. * Sporting KC is 3-1-0 when wearing Dark Indigo this season. * Sporting Kansas City outshot the New York Red Bulls 14-13 in Wednesday's match. Sporting Kansas City has outshot their opponent in 23 out of 29 matches in 2012. * Sporting Kansas City is 14-5-4 when outshooting an opponent in 2012. * Sporting Kansas City is 8-2-3 when the temperature is below 75 degrees at kickoff in 2012. * Sporting Kansas City is 6-1-0 in the Eastern time zone this season. * Sporting Kansas City is 10-5-4 against the Eastern Conference this season. * Sporting Kansas City is 13-6-5 on grass surfaces this season. * Sporting Kansas City leads MLS with 484 shots this season and has allowed the fewest shots against (278). * The club has led MLS in shots in five of the past seven seasons, finishing first in shots in 2006 (408), 2007 (420), 2010 (393) and 2011 (488). * Sporting Kansas City leads MLS in all-time shots taken with 7,133. * Graham Zusi leads MLS with 131 corner kicks this season and Sporting Kansas City leads MLS with 180. * With six corner kicks in Wednesday's match, Sporting Kansas City surpasses the club's all-time single season high for corner kicks with 180. * Kei Kamara now leads MLS with 125 shots this season. * Kamara has the second most shots in a single-season by a KC player, behind only Preki (140), and fourth most in a single-season in MLS history. * The last time an MLS player attempted more than 125 shots in a season was in 2000 (Ante Razov and Mamadou Diallo). * Kamara also leads MLS in shots on goal with 46 this season. * Sporting Kansas City is 23-2-7 all-time with the backline of Chance Myers, Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin starting in defense in all competition. * Sporting Kansas City is unbeaten in the last nine games that Roger Espinoza has started for the club. * Peter Vermes is 45-36-27 (including playoffs) in his coaching career. * Wednesday's match was his 108th in MLS competition, passing Ron Newman for sole possession of the second-most games managed in club history. * He currently ranks 24th among MLS coaches all-time with 43 regular season wins.

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