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Red Bulls look to rebound vs. Sporting KC to stay in Supporters’ Shield race

 

HANOVER, N.J. — Kemar Lawrence knows how damaging Sunday night’s Hudson River Derby defeat to New York City FC was. It’s less about Big Apple soccer banter and more about the standings for the New York Red Bulls left back.

NYCFC catapulted over the Red Bulls into second place in the East and moved within three points of leaders Atlanta United with a midweek win over the Montreal Impact.

The Red Bulls, meanwhile, are in the third place, eight points behind Atlanta with three games in hand, and Columbus Crew SC and the New England Revolution are within striking distance. For Lawrence, midway through July isn’t too early to be concerned about the Supporters’ Shield race.

“We dropped some points the other night and we just want to make up for that,” the Jamaican international said. “We can’t give Atlanta any room to really run away with this thing because they’re a good team and they don’t really give up points, especially when they play at home.”

The Red Bulls (10-5-2) are, too. In fact, they’re better at home than the Five Stripes this season, winning six of eight games at Red Bull Arena and outscoring opponents, 20-4.

And some of their biggest wins have come after losses.

They defeated Minnesota United FC3-0, following a loss at Real Salt Lake, knocked off Montreal 3-1 after losing in Orlando and beat the LA Galaxy 3-2 on the road after a 2-1 loss to Chicago — their only defeat at Red Bull Arena this year.

Winger Danny Royer expects a similar mentality Saturday night when the Red Bulls host Sporting Kansas City.

“Sure we do. Anything else would be the wrong attitude,” he said. “We showed many times that we’re able to bounce back, especially in Red Bull Arena. I think it’s a good opportunity for us.”

Sporting Kansas City (9-4-6), currently third in the West but just two points behind leaders FC Dallas, won its last trip to Harrison, beating the Red Bulls 2-0 on April 9, 2016. Despite some recent struggles — winless in the last three matches and coming off a 2-2 home draw with Toronto FC — SKC will be a tough team to beat.

“Always a good team, they’re good on the ball, they have good outside players who really can run at you and cause problems,” Lawrence said. “We’re just going to try to force turnovers, try to play our game, try to counter-press and see if we can get some early goals. If we do that at Red Bull Arena then we put ourselves in the right place to win the game.”

A year ago, Sporting Kansas City won the regular-season meeting 2-0 at Children’s Mercy Park and then defeated the Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup final. It was SKC’s fourth Open Cup title, third since 2012, to go along with a pair of MLS Cup trophies.

“They’re very similar to us, in the sense you know what you’re going to get. But the thing I think of most when it comes to Sporting Kansas City is the amount of trophies they’ve won,” Red Bulls captain Luis Robles said. “Since I’ve come in 2012, they’re always in the thick of it. They’re always competing for something and that’s something that I envy.”

The match will be Chris Armas’ second in charge since Jesse Marsch left to become an assistant coach at Leipzig, and he said he’s excited for the opportunity to match wits with Peter Vermes.

“You understand why people talk about him as the next national team coach,” Armas said. “His team has been a team early on that plays against the ball, they understand both sides of it now more than probably any other team in the league in my opinion. … Those type of games usually are really fun because you have to prepare and be ready for different things they can do.”

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