Donnelly: Kei Reveals Secret Weapons After Huge 2-0 Win at New York Red Bulls

“I don’t think there’s anything special to their team,” said New York Red Bull midfielder Tim Cahill

That after his team was hammered at home 2-0 by Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday. The loss snapped New York’s 16 game home unbeaten streak.

Special?  Maybe not.  Unless you’re counting that choreographed celebration dance-off between Kei Kamara and CJ SapongThat was special.  

After falling flat at home last weekend against the Houston Dynamo, Sporting took to the road Wednesday for a huge Eastern Conference match-up against New York, who entered the contest just two points back of conference-leading SKC.

The game pitted the league’s best defense against the highest scoring team in the east, and the question going in was whether KC could slow down the likes of Thierry Henry, Kenny Cooper, Sebastian LeToux, Joel Lindpere and Tim Cahill.

Aside from the star power, the match also showcased- and certainly reinforced (not that he needed it)- KC manager Peter Vermes’ philosophy regarding the “right” way to play, and why a lot of other teams turn into pussies on the road.

Much has been said of late, by Vermes and several Sporting players, about the willingness of visiting teams to bunker in and slog up the game.  Last week Vermes even called out the refs for allowing opponents to excessively waste time.

That wasn’t necessary this time out, because KC came out swinging and hit New York in the mouth, putting two goals on the board in the first 20 minutes.  The first came courtesy of CJ Sapong after Graham Zusi finally cracked a nice shot off a set piece that smacked the crossbar before ending up at CJ’s right boot around the penalty spot.  The second was just a classic Kei Kamara near post header off a corner.

“I think what happens a lot of times is, I don’t think it’s much of a secret, when we play at home everybody just sticks everything behind the ball and they do play for 90 minutes with basically trying to counter us,” Vermes said after the game.  “It’s not a lot of space to play in; it’s just what it is. What happens when we come to other people’s places is they have to play because it’s their place and they have to drive the game a little bit so they can’t sit back. They have to open themselves up, and when they do we find opportunities and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why.”

I don’t know about you, but I sense a little bit of vindication in Vermes on that one. 

Almost like he was saying, “See?  I told you that when teams play us straight up man-to-man and don’t play bunker ball on us they can’t hang.”

On this night, Vermes was certainly right.

New York struggled with KC’s pressure early, and though they got a bit better in the second half, never really created anything all that dangerous in front of goal.  Credit that to the White Puma and the defensive back four, who played a great overall game.  At one point I thought Kenny Cooper was going to cry he was being harassed so much, not only by the KC defense, but also by teammate Thierry Henry who didn’t waste any opportunities to chastise the big striker whenever he made a mistake.

There might be something else going on with this team, too. Something dare I say, mystic.  It might not be all guts and work rate that’s kept KC at the top of the East as the regular season is winding down.

“That kind of African-Caribbean feelings we inject into all the players so we can relax and have fun,” revealed Kei in a jubilant visitors’ locker room.  And one more thing:  “We have Graham Zusi.”

Well, the cat’s out of the bag.  Get a little African-Caribbean injection, throw in a little Zusi, a pinch of salt and a dash of Vermes red-ass.  Dee-lish!

Next up is another huge away game at noon Saturday at Montreal, a team that has exceeded expectations this season and is still hanging around the playoff picture.  The Canadians are sure to come out fired up, as it’s virtually a must-win for them to stay in contention.

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8 Responses to Donnelly: Kei Reveals Secret Weapons After Huge 2-0 Win at New York Red Bulls

  1. % says:

    Big important win for Sporting KC. No doubt about that.

    Vermes seems like he’s deflecting more than a bit about how visiting teams play at Livestrong Sporting Park. Reeks like cover for a team that has appeared uninspired at times on their home turf. I don’t really recall Montreal just sitting back behind the ball. I recall Sporting just languishing that entire game. In their last two home games (Toronto and Houston) the visiting team struck first. To back off the attack after taking the lead is not an unusual tactic, or as Mr. Donnelly says, playing like pussies.

    But this is Vermes’ schtick with the media and the media never questions it. After every defeat, one of two lines emerges from Vermes’ postgame comments when his team loses or draws at home. It’s either the refs cost them the game somehow or that Sporting dominated and just couldn’t finish the job.

    Sporting is leading the East and can make a case for winning the Supporter’s Shield (which is mostly meaningless now that MLS adopted their idiotic unbalanced schedule), but there’s plenty of cause for concern for this team heading into the playoffs. To me, they seem ripe for an early upset at home to a team like Houston or Columbus. It’s absurd that they register 20+ shots per game and convert so few of their opportunities. So few even count as shots on goal. It’s a mystery to me why they pile up low-percentage offensive opportunities at home by just lobbing crosses into the box all game and heading the ball way over the net or losing possession in the box and then go on the road and show a feckless New York team how it’s done.

    Vermes can play misdirection with the media about why the team wins, draws or loses certain games, but let’s be honest. A Sporting team that plays like they did last night where they actually play offense rather than playing like an underskilled FIFA12 player just lobbing cross after cross and hoping the best can make it far in the playoffs. But if they buy into their coach’s line about how they’re just unlucky or get hosed by the refs to excuse morose play in one of the best home atmospheres in the league, we’re going to watch another Houston team get offered up as the East’s sacrificial lamb in the MLC Cup, this time to San Jose.

    • Matthew Donnelly says:

      Hey %, I’ve questioned Vermes’ “schtick” from the get-go, and I don’t buy it. Well, I buy that teams bunker at LIVESTRONG, but like I said in my last column, FIGURE IT OUT VERMES. They’re not cheating!

      But knowing Vermes and how no-nonsense he is with his team, I really doubt that any of the players are feeling sorry for themselves, even though he repeatedly whines in press conferences. I think it just annoys him to see teams junk up games on purpose, all the time, all game long (as opposed to just when they’re playing with a lead).

      • % says:


        I’m not lumping you in with the rest of the media I mentioned. You are conscientious and call out Vermes and the team when it’s appropriate. Like you said, no team is going crosswise with the rules by gumming up SKC’s offense. If SKC could keep them honest and put a shot into the net from the run of play rather than row 12 of the South Stands, they could be a dangerous team. But hell, why not sit back and play the counterattack if SKC can’t convert enough of their chances. Their defense is vulnerable enough on the counterattack to inspire team to keep making them pay with it.

        I see how you’re annoyed with how other team’s play at Livestrong. I’m far more annoyed with their conversion rate and Espinoza’s flopping.

      • the dude says:

        The only way to beat bunkerism is to pressure and put the ball in the goal. We still need a legitimate straight on goal threat.

  2. legendaryhog says:

    SKC looked pretty good, but still had some defensive mistakes. Neilson put out a hospital ball to Ceasar for no reason (he wasn’t being pressured) that predictably got taken and slotted through to Henry, who blew the shot that should have been an easy goal for NY, then he and Jimmy proceeded to fake injuries to hide their mistakes or something…it was funny. Rodger got a stupid yellow card, so he’s out for the next game by virtue of accumulation. Also, Kenny Cooper blew about five chances to put shots on frame. He basically had a meltdown. There was some weird no-calls by the ref too, a couple of fouls that could have easily been PK’s for Sporting, and Henry headbutted (kinda) Kei for some reason on a NY corner before it was taken, and they both rolled around like they had been shot. This game involved more diving, by both teams, than any other I have seen all year. Way to go pussies. Sporting looked very reluctant in the second half, especially for the last 30 minutes to try for a 3rd goal for fear of counter-attack. Unfortunate really. A third goal would have put the game away. At one time in the second half, Kei had only one defender to beat and he didn’t even try. Lame. Good game, but grow some balls Sporting. If you’re gonna bitch about other teams hunkering down on the road, don’t do it yourself once you go up.

  3. legendaryhog says:

    Also, not to beat a dead horse (no wait, beat the fuck out of that horse), note that both goals were scored on a set piece and a cross. When is the last time a goal was scored in the run of play from the middle of the field? Seriously, I can’t remember….10 games ago when Teal had a breakaway? Is that right, I don’t even know anymore. Lame.

  4. Rick Nichols says:

    A monumental win in the Big Apple to say the least, especially in light of San Jose’s result at home later in the evening. Hopefully the lads won’t go up to Montreal on Saturday and lay an egg. They can’t afford to if they really want to lay claim to the Supporter’s Shield, not that it means all that much in the grand scheme of things and it’s certainly no guarantee that the MLS Cup will belong to them at season’s end. Still, another trophy on the shelf and more paint on the wall is nothing to sneeze at.

  5. George Wilson says:

    To answer legendaryhog’s question, last week’s extra time goal from CJ was a close in header off a Zusi pass emanating from inside the box during the run of play. The week before that the game winner against Toronto came during the run of play on a shot from around the top of the box on Rosell’s nifty one touch finish. And the week before that their goal also came during the run of play when Kamara scored on a header at the top of the box when the Red Bulls’ keeper came off his line trying to beat Kei to the ball.

    I agree that their offense during the run of play needs to improve, but I think once in a while our memories play tricks on us as to exactly how little they seem to score in those circumstances.

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