Kandji’s goal lifts New York past Seattle 1-0
By TIM BOOTH
AP Sports Writer
That seemingly endless road winless skid wasn’t ignored by the New York Red Bulls.
They embraced the challenge and finally ended a nearly two-year streak in arguably the toughest MLS road venue.
Macoumba Kandji left-footed a shot past Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller in the 21st minute, and the New York Red Bulls snapped their 27-match streak without an MLS regular-season win on the road in a 1-0 win over the Sounders on Saturday night.
The road woes lasted for nearly two years, where New York went 0-20-7. Their last regular season road win came on May 10, 2008 against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“We talked about it and we said it has to stop right now,” Kandji said. “We did just like we practiced and I think that’s why we were so successful.”
Kandji slipped his left foot around a Seattle defender as the ball pinballed around the penalty box off a corner kick. The shot deflected off the underside of the crossbar and past a helpless Keller.
Even Keller noted this was a “night and day” different New York team than the one that got routed 3-0 a year ago in the first game in Sounders history and went on to be outscored 27-3 in league road matches during the 2009 season. New York opened the season with a 1-0 win over Chicago in Red Bull Arena, its gleaming new $200 million home, then showed the win over Chicago wasn’t a fluke.
It’s New York’s first 2-0 start since 2004. New York has never begun 3-0.
New York goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul made Kandji’s goal stand up with five saves, none bigger than pushing aside Steve Zakuani’s chance from about 15 yards out in the 69th minute. Seattle outshot New York 17-10.
“I don’t want to say it’s the same story as last year, but it was a game that we dominate,” Zakuani said. “New York was dangerous on the counter but I think we controlled the game. We had several chances in the first half, more in the second half and we just couldn’t get one to go in.”
New York also won without coach Hans Backe on the bench Saturday night. The team said Backe had stomach pains Saturday morning and went to a hospital for treatment. Medical personnel recommended Backe remain at the team hotel rather than be at the stadium.
He missed the Red Bulls’ first road win away from New Jersey in almost two calendar years. And with Columbus and Kansas City idle this weekend, the Red Bulls find themselves in first place in the Eastern Conference, already 40 percent of the way to their win total of a year ago when they finished 5-19-6.
During their winless stretch the Red Bulls had three competitive road victories, but none in MLS regular season play: a U.S. Open Cup win at San Jose (2-1 last April 29) and two league playoff wins (3-0 at Houston on Nov. 9, 2008, and 1-0 at Salt Lake on Nov. 15, 2008).
“Nobody wants to a part of a record like that … of road losses,” said New York assistant Richie Williams, who filled in for Backe. “We wanted to put an end to it, that this year is a different year.”
While Kandji got his first goal of the season, Coundoul was largely responsible for this victory, again highlighting Seattle’s biggest issue from its first season: finishing chances.
Zakuani’s opportunity was the best for Seattle, but Freddie Ljungberg and Tyrone Marshall both missed possible headers in the second half. Coundoul smothered scoring chances from Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso in the first half.
Seattle, which won its opener 2-0 over expansion Philadelphia, had its four-match regular season win streak dating to last season snapped. Keller made three saves for Seattle, including a point-blank stop of New York striker Juan Pablo Angel early in the second half to keep the Sounders within one goal.
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