Recap: Sporting KC draws New York 1-1 in 2015 opener

Sporting Kansas City opened the 2015 Major League Soccer season on Sunday with a 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls at Sporting Park. Ike Opara, who missed most of 2014 after suffering a season-ending ankle injury last March, scored on his return before Lloyd Sam equalized four minutes later to split the points in the lone meeting between the two sides this regular season.

Manager Peter Vermes went with first round SuperDraft pick Amadou Dia to make his professional debut at right back, while also inserting newcomers Bernardo Anor, Krisztian Nemeth and Luis Marin into his opening match lineup. Sporting KC was further bolstered by the return of World Cup veteran Roger Espinoza, making the 100th start of his MLS career (including postseason), after being re-acquired in the offseason from Wigan Athletic. 

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On the opposite side of the field, the Red Bulls played their first MLS match under new head coach Jesse Marsch and welcomed midfielder Sacha Kljestan into the fold. The two teams - who met in the 2014 regular season finale and again in the 2014 Eastern Conference Knockout Round - featured the top two goal scorers from a year ago in Sporting KC's Dom Dwyer and New York's Bradley Wright-Phillips, however it was Opara that broke the deadlock in the 50th minute with his first goal in over 17 months.

Benny Feilhaber earned the assist with a pinpoint cross after working his way past Damien Perrinelle on the right flank. His delivery was met by Opara inside the six-yard box and headed past Luis Robles for his seventh career MLS goal. It marked the second straight season in which Sporting KC's first goal of the regular season was scored by a defender after having never happened in the team's first 18 seasons.

The Red Bulls wasted no time in pulling level on an individual effort from Sam. The Englishman found space between Sporting Kansas City's defensive and midfield lines, dribbling toward the top of the penalty arc and cutting back before curling a shot inside the post from 22 yards out for his 10th career goal in four MLS seasons.

Sporting Kansas City was reduced to 10 men in the 70th minute when captain Matt Besler was sent off upon receiving his second caution of the match for a tackle on Wright-Phillips near midfield. Nevertheless, the home side - playing in front of the 54th consecutive MLS sell-out crowd at Sporting Park and debuting the team's new primary kit - nearly netted a late game-winner on two occasions.

In the 88th minute, Jacob Peterson - making his 200th regular season appearance - split the defense with a through ball for Feilhaber, who sent a first-time pass into the path of Dwyer. The MLS All-Star stretched at full-extension but his left-footed shot rolled wide of the target.

Dwyer came close again in the first minute of second half stoppage time, racing onto a punt from Marin and holding off a challenge from Perrinelle. Robles made an important foot save to deny Dwyer and Paulo Nagamura's follow-up on the rebound was blocked by a pair of New York players.

As a result of the four shots on goal in Sunday's draw, Sporting Kansas City supporters can enjoy 44-cent Monster Tacos at local Jack-in-the-Box locations on Monday. Sporting KC improves to 12-5-3 all-time in regular season openers and 12-2-6 in regular season home openers, remaining unbeaten at Sporting Park in the team's five all-time home openers at the state-of-the-art venue.

Sporting Kansas City will next face fellow Western Conference foes FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 14 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The match will air live locally on KMCI-TV 38 the Spot and across the Midwest on SKCTV.

Major League Soccer
Regular Season: Game 1
Sporting Park | Kansas City, Kan.
Attendance: 19,784 (54th straight sell out)
Weather: 70 degrees and sunny

Score

1

2

F

Sporting KC (0-0-1, 1 pt)

0

1

1

New York Red Bulls (0-0-1, 1 pt)

0

1

1

Sporting Kansas City: Luis Marin; Seth Sinovic, Matt Besler (c), Ike Opara, Amadou Dia; Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Krisztian Nemeth (Jacob Peterson 77); Bernardo Anor (Paulo Nagamura 61), Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi (Erik Palmer-Brown 85)

Subs Not Used: Tim Melia, Connor Hallisey, Jalil Anibaba, Jimmy Medranda

New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles; Damien Perrinelle, Ronald Zubar (Matt Miazga 77), Roy Miller, Chris Duvall; Sacha Kljestan, Felipe (Anatole Bertrand Abang 84), Lloyd Sam, Dax McCarty (c), Mike Grella (Sal Zizzo 68); Bradley Wright-Phillips

Subs Not Used: Kyle Reynish, Sean Davis, Leo Stolz, Dane Richards

Stats

SKC

NY

Shots

18

14

Shots on Goal

4

4

Saves

3

3

Fouls

10

17

Offside

0

5

Corner Kicks

6

9

Misconduct Summary:
SKC -- Matt Besler (caution; reckless tackle) 30
SKC -- Matt Besler (caution; tactical foul) 70
SKC -- Matt Besler (ejection; second caution) 70
NYR -- Bradley Wright-Phillips (caution; tactical foul) 80
NYR -- Sacha Kljestan (caution; reckless tackle) 86

Scoring Summary:
SKC -- Ike Opara 1 (Benny Feilhaber 1) 50
NYR -- Lloyd Sam 1 (Felipe 1) 54

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