HARRISON, N.J. - C.J. Sapong and Kei Kamara scored first-half goals and Sporting KC won the battle for first place in the Eastern Conference and extended its unbeaten streak to seven games with a 2-0 victory over the Red Bulls on Wednesday night.
Graham Zusi added his MLS-high 14th assist of the season as Sporting KC (16-7-6) opened a four-point lead over second-place Chicago and a five-point bulge over third-place New York (14-8-7) with five games left in the regular season.
Sporting KC came into the game with the MLS' best defense (25 goals allowed) and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen didn't have to make his first save until the 56th minute in recording his league-best 12th shutout. He finished with four saves in handing New York its first loss at Red Bull Arena in 14 games (10-1-3).
The Red Bulls would have moved into first place in the conference with a win, and the remarkable thing about the game was that only 10,287 fans showed up for the match.
In many ways, the Red Bulls didn't show up either.
Both Sporting KC goals came off set pieces.
Sapong, who gave Sporting KC a 1-1 tie with a goal in injury time against Houston on Friday night, put his team ahead in the 12th minute. Zusi's free kick from just outside the penalty box slammed off the crossbar. Defenseman Matt Besler got the rebound and slid the ball forward to Sapong, who turned and beat goalkeeper Bill Gaudette with a shot inside the post for his seventh goal.
Kamara, whose own goal gave the Red Bulls a 1-1 draw in Kansas City on Aug. 26, scored his team-high 11th goal seven minutes later. Zusi took a corner kick and an unmarked Kamara scored on a header after New York defender Wilman Conde didn't cover him.
The Red Bulls' best scoring chances came in the final 15 minutes. Second-half substitute Lloyd Sam got off a weak shot after coming up with a loose ball in the box, while Nielsen had a make a diving save on substitute Sebastien Le Toux minutes later. New York also had a chance in injury time off a scramble but missed the net.
There was an incident near at the end of the game where Henry and Kamara inadvertently hit heads as the teams lined up for a free kick. There was some pushing and shoving before things calmed down.
The MLS has put a greater important on finishing with the most points in the regular season. The team with the most points that reaches the championship game will host it.
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