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Match Preview: Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls

Sporting KC begins their 2015 season with the team that ended their 2014 season: The New York Red Bulls

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

About the Teams

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City comes into 2015 with an overhauled roster. Roger Espinoza is back in Sporting Blue manning the midfield, Luis Marin is the new man in net, Marcel De Dong is a recently signed left back with Bundesliga experience, it goes on and on. The focus this match will be on how the new meshes with the old and, finally rested, core of Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Benny Feilhaber, and Dom Dwyer. Sporting may also roll with a new formation outside of their normal 4-3-3, so there is plenty of new to go with Sporting KC in the 2015 opener.

New York Red Bulls

New York went through an offseason of sad departures. First was the retirement of Thierry Henry, then the sudden firing of head coach Mike Petke. Jesse Marsch will lead the Red Bulls into 2015 in his first year of coaching, although he will have plenty of weapons. Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips is fresh off a 27-goal season and new captain Dax McCarty is a solid presence in the midfield. They've also added USMNTer Sacha Kljestan and Felipe Martins to bolster their midfield as well. Their defense is still a bit of a soft spot so this is going to be a team that needs their attack to carry them.

Who to Watch

Sporting Kansas City- Roger Espinoza

There are many candidates for this section but Espinoza is probably most deserving. He returns to the midfield he helped control during his first tenure in Kansas City, but it's different now. The personnel surrounding him are different and, because the team is without a true defensive midfielder, Espinoza's role in this match will be crucial. "The Dragon" will have to be a wrecking ball, disrupting play and not allowing the Red Bulls to control the midfield. If he can allow whoever is playing defensive midfield to be a distributor from the back, then Sporting will have a decent chance in this game.

New York Red Bulls- Bradley Wright-Phillips

Wright-Phillips played such a huge role for the Red Bulls in 2015 as they went to the Eastern Conference finals. It helped that he had Thierry Henry behind him sending up service but the Red Bulls' midfield is still strong. As a constant threat to score, Wright-Phillips has the opportunity to disrupt the Sporting KC centerbacks, especially featuring one that hasn't played in a competitive match since last May in Ike Opara. Plus, Wright-Phillips' presence can draw the defense towards him and open up someone like McCarty or Kljestan. He has the potential to be a headache for Sporting all game.

Why They'll Win

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting KC will win this match because the Red Bulls' weak spot is their back line and Sporting KC's attacking triad has been a bright spot. Dom Dywer is fresh off a 22 goal season and is flanked by Graham Zusi, the creative USMNTer, and Bernardo Anor, who looked decent with the first team in preseason. Bolstered by their high-pressured system, Sporting KC should be able to force the Red Bull's shaky defense into a mistake and a goal. The energy of a season opener at Sporting Park doesn't hurt either.

New York Red Bulls

Where the Red Bulls lack in defense, they make up for in midfield. A 4-2-3-1, essentially a five-man midfield, can cause problems for Sporting KC playing three in the middle. They have creativity and also the ability to disrupt play and physically control the midfield. This game should be a war between Espinoza and McCarty as they fight for control of the midfield and if the Red Bulls can overwhelm the new Sporting KC middle then they have the weapons to beat Sporting KC's defense.

Predictions

Lineups

Sporting KC: Marin; De Jong, Besler, Opara, Sinovic; Feilhaber, Espinoza, Nemeth; Anor, Dwyer, Zusi

New York Red Bulls (From Jason Iapicco): Robles; Miller, Zubar, Miazga, Duvall; Kljestan, McCarty; Grella, Felipe, Sam; Wright-Phillips

Scoreline