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Bigsoccerhead: Sporting KC Hand RBNY First Home Loss

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HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 16: Dax McCarty #11 of New York Red Bulls reacts during the game against the D.C
HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 16: Dax McCarty #11 of New York Red Bulls reacts during the game against the D.C

Only a few months ago, many would have viewed the first match-up between the Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City as a duel between two Eastern Conference title contenders. As it’s turned out, though, the Red Bulls have been afflicted by early season inconsistency while the visitors have slowly begun to find the form that drove them deep into the playoffs, last season.

That inconsistency was on display Wednesday night, as the Red Bull suffered their first home defeat of the season.

Player Ratings (1-10)

Robles (7): His disastrous performance in Chicago had fans and pundits calling for his head, but Robles continued his rebound by playing one of his best games of the season. His biggest save of the match came in the 56th minute when Robles parried a point blank shot from Nagamura after a missed tackle by Heath Pearce.  Detractors will argue that Robles was lucky to have his gift pass to an SKC player called a foul, just seconds before halftime.

Barklage (6): Through no real fault of his own, Barklage was on his back foot throughout most of the first half, as CJ Sapong and Benny Feilhaber attacked down his flank. The right-back defended soundly for most of the game, and began to push forward more in the second half when the Red Bulls were chasing the game. This did allow Graham Zusi to grow into the game.

Holgersson (7): The Swede had a busy night as the Red Bulls midfield found it hard to contend with SKC’s five-man midfield. Claudio Bieler’s movement meant that Holgersson shared marking duties with Olave, and Pearce, who replaced the Colombian in the first half. Except for a chance caused by an awkward bounce, Holgersson kept Bieler from threatening Robles’ goal.

Olave (4): The Colombian was responsible for Aurelien Collin’s goal, when he failed to cover the SKC defender at the first post during a corner. Olave did manage one crucial tackle before he limped off injured, preventing Sapong from getting a clear scoring opportunity in the 8th minute.

Miller (7): The left-back returned for his second game in a row, and did well. Miller prevented Graham Zusi from influencing the game in the first half, causing the winger to move to the left where he was more effective against Barklage. Miller’s poor crossing was the only blemish on his game.

McCarty (5): Not even close to the kind of form he’s shown all season. McCarty was actually very lucky to remain on the field - first by applauding the ref when he received a yellow card, and later for his rash tackle on Sapong. McCarty had a hard time picking up SKC’s midfielders, and was never allowed enough time to create with the ball at his feet.

Player Spotlight

Juninho (7): The Brazilian played his best game of the season. Only his sending off (for kicking the ball at Jimmy Nielsen) and his substandard direct free kicks marred his performance. For the first time this season, Juninho looked like he could physically compete in the center of the park, and that was against SKC’s three center-mids. Additionally, most of New York’s chances were created by his set pieces.

Cahill (5): Completely absent from the game in the first half, Cahill suffered mostly because he was played out of position on the left wing. When he wasn’t getting the ball wide, the Australian began pinching in the middle, depriving the Red Bulls from developing productive wing play. Marius Obekop replaced Cahill in the 75th minute.

Alexander (5): Hardly touched the ball in the first half, mostly because he was defending for much of the time. Alexander began the second half by being more involved, but an inspired Seth Sinovic regularly closed him down. Bover replaced Alexander in the 66th minute.

Henry (7): As has been the case recently, the Frenchman was New York’s most dangerous player, usually influencing the game from the left side of the field. Henry had two clear opportunities to score. He had a point blank shot parried by Nielsen in the 15th minute, and shot wide in the 86th when Matt Besler failed to intercept Roy Miller’s cross.

Espindola (5): Very indecisive throughout the game, especially with his shots, Espindola failed to leave his mark, yet again. His partnership with Henry just isn’t working, since the Argentine, like the Frenchman, feels more comfortable attacking from the wing. Espindola may have prevented Henry from scoring in the 73rd minute, when the former got in the way of Bover’s excellent swinging ball.

Pearce (6): A badly mistimed tackle could have killed the game early in the second half. A rash dive allowed Zusi to get by him, and only a fantastic Robles save prevented a goal. Other than that, the American international was sound, always looking to build the attacks from the back.

Bover (4): Came in for Alexander to create more offense from the wings, namely on the left side where Cahill was not producing. His big moment came in the 73rd minute when he delivered a beautiful cross to the second post that was on its way to finding a wide-open Henry, until Espindola got in the way.

Obekop (4): Made his MLS debut and in the short time managed to show some good signs. He was unafraid to shoot at goal, hitting two daisy-cutters wide, and instilled some energy into a hiccuping Red Bulls attack.

You can follow Eric Krakauer on Twitter @bigsoccerheadny