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MLS Cup 2014 Playoffs: Sporting Kansas City at New York Red Bulls Match Preview

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Sporting KC look to keep their season alive as they take on the New York Red Bulls in a winner-take-all game for the right to play DC United.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

About the Teams

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City have been in a downward spiral for the past few months, culminating in a 2-0 home loss to the Red Bulls this past Sunday. They have some injury concerns with Benny Feilhaber and Igor Juliao both listed as questionable for tomorrow, which would change the midfield lineup considerably and likely force Kevin Ellis to play right back. Some good news for Sporting KC is that they will get Jorge Claros back after missing him for about a month due to some inappropriate comments that we still haven't gotten to the bottom of.

New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls come into these playoffs as the four seed and full of confidence after defeating Sporting KC 2-0 on Sunday. They will have a rested Thierry Henry back for this match if his achilles are playable and also the MLS Golden Boot winner in Bradley Wright-Philips. They've fared well against Sporting KC this season, grabbing seven points from SKC over three games and will have the same lineup as Sunday after the addition of Henry. New York should be feeling comfortable going into this match.

Who to Watch

Sporting Kansas City- Jorge Claros

Sporting Kansas City are going to need to be strong down the middle of the field and that all starts with Jorge Claros. Claros needs to provide cover to the centerbacks while also providing a bit of spark on offense to Nagamura and either Feilhaber or Zusi in the midfield. It's a tall task for someone who hasn't played a full league match in the past three matches, but Claros is going to be a very important figure in this game. If he can stop Henry and help neutralize Wright-Phillips, Sporting KC may be able to sneak a win out of this match.

New York Red Bulls- Thierry Henry

If Mike Petke decides that Henry's achilles are alright enough to play, Henry could end up being a huge part of the Red Bulls' offense. With him behind Wright-Phillips, it sets up two very dangerous targets for Sporting KC's ragged defense to worry about, not to mention Lloyd Sam or Dax McCarty. The presence of Henry adds a new element to Sporting KC's defensive strategies, especially considering they were able to win without him only four days prior.

How They'll Win

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC will win this game by outscoring New York (Thanks, John Madden). Essentially, Sporting cannot rely on their defense to win them this game so they need to win this game in the attack. If Benny Feilhaber is able to play, he needs to play well. Graham Zusi needs to be incredibly dangerous on the wing and Dom Dwyer needs to be his usual bulldog self in the box, making life hell for Robles. Maybe Sporting's defense will be able to step up and shut down the Red Bulls but I foresee a 3-2 win happening more than a 1-0 win.

New York Red Bulls

New York needs to do exactly what they did on Sunday in order to take care of Sporting KC. They need to play a high-line and force the back line to make mistakes. Whether it's an inexperienced Igor Juliao or an out-of-position Kevin Ellis at right back, New York will have the opportunity to attack down the wing and spread Sporting's defense out. They have one of the better attacks in the league, they should be able to ride it to victory against Sporting KC in their current form.

Predictions

Lineups

Sporting Kansas City: Kronberg; Juliao, Collin, Besler, Sinovic; Claros, Nagamura, Feilhaber; Saad, Dwyer, Zusi.

New York Red Bulls (From Jason Iapicco): Luis Robles; Roy Miller, Ibrahim Sekagya, Jamison Olave, Richard Eckserly; Dax McCarty, Eric Alexander; Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Lloyd Sam; Bradley Wright-Phillips

Scoreline