KC’s Dom Dwyer was a handful and a half to handle all night. (Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports)
KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Little question the Red Bulls have two distinct personalities this season.
It just depends on where they play.
At Red Bull Arena, they are kings of the venue. They have been difficult to beat and that can be seen from their 4-0-1 record in which they have allowed but one goal.
At just about any other Major League Soccer stadium, they have proven to be a rather ordinary side and that could be a nice way to describe them. They endured another long night away from home, dropping a 2-0 decision to Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park Wednesday night.
They fell to 1-4 away from home — four consecutive road losses — having allowed 11 goals in those five matches.
The loss snapped the Red Bulls’ (5-4-1, 16) three-game winning streak, which was forged at home, as they squandered an opportunity to move into first place in the Eastern Conference with Orlando City SC (6-2-0, 18 points) falling at Toronto FC, 2-1, as the Canadian club (5-1-4, 19) moved atop the 11-team division.
Kansas City (5-1-3, 18), on the other hand, climbed into first place past the idle Portland Timbers (5-2-2, 17) in the Western Conference with the win, which was sparked by a pair of goals by English-born striker Dom Dwyer, who has secured his U.S. citizenship.
The Starting XI’s of the two sides were a study in contrasts.
Sporting head coach Peter Vermes decided to start the same starting lineup for the fourth consecutive match, though the hosts had a Sunday match.
Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch, on the other hand, with another road match at the Philadelphia Union Saturday looming, decided to rest several regular and utilized six players who did not start in the 2-1 home triumph over the Chicago Fire Saturday.
Starting the match on the bench were striker Bradley Wright-Phillips and midfield playmaker Sacha Kljestan. The regulars on the field for the kickoff included goalkeeper Luis Robles, who wore the captain’s armband, center back Aaron Long, defender Connor Lade and midfielders Felipe and Alex Muyl.
Newcomers included defenders Sal Zizzo, who was playing at center back for the first time in his MLS career, Michael Amir Murillo, midfielders Sean Davis, Gonzalo Veron and Derrick Etienne and forward Fredrik Gulbrandsen.
The opening half turned out to be a goalkeepers’ duel as both opposing players had their moments.
First, Tim Melia of East Islip, N.Y. was tested after Gulbrandsen took the ball away from a KC player, raced in on goal on the right side and ripped a shot that the keeper managed to get his fingers on to tip over the net in the 28th minute.
Then it was the Robles show.
In the 34th minute, the New York goalkeeper denied Dom Dwyer’s point-blank header with a two-handed save off Benny Feilhaber’s right-wing cross.
Six minutes later, Robles was at it again as he sent a 28-yard blast that he saved.
With the second half less than a minute old, Robles was called on again to stop Graham Zusi. But as well as he performed, Robles proved he was mortal. After the veteran keeper saved a shot from defense, Zizzo could not clear the ball properly and Dwyer, from close-range, had an easy time slotting it home to give KC a 1-0 lead.
Robles again was up to the task in the 63rd minute when he stopped Feilhaber’s blast from atop the penalty area. What was more concerning was all the room the veteran midfielder had on the sequence. Melia booted a long ball down field that Feilhaber possessed and had tons of room to run before reaching the box.
In the meantime, Marsch had seen enough from his attack, or lack thereof, and inserted Kljestan in for Veron and BWP for Etienne.
It did little to help New York’s shoddy team defense — too many players were ball watching — as Dwyer found himself open in the penalty area and converted Feilhaber’s fine right-wing cross from eight yards to lift Kansas City to a two-goal advantage in the 68th minute.
It was Dwyer’s fifth goal of the season, all since April 9.