Harrison, NJ (Sports Network) - Two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference will meet at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday as Red Bull New York hosts Sporting Kansas City.
Both clubs are coming off of defeats of D.C. United. New York claimed a 2-0 win over United at RFK Stadium on Saturday thanks to goals from Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave. Sporting, meanwhile, had the weekend off but managed to edge D.C. in its last outing thanks to Claudio Bieler's late winner at Sporting Park.
Sporting's defeat of United helped the club extend its shutout streak to 429 minutes, the second-longest such streak in club history.
"It's only good that we don't give up goals," said Sporting head coach Peter Vermes. "That's the great thing. I care less about the streaks. It's great when you don't give up goals. I say it all the time, if you don't give up goals, you not only get results but I think you set yourself up as time goes on to be able to win the important games because you're not giving the easy chances away.
"It's a big part of this. Defense wins championships. There's no doubt about it. You have to be able to defend."
Sporting has not conceded a league goal since the 21st minute of its 2-1 loss to Toronto FC on March 9. Since the start of the club's four-game unbeaten streak, Kansas City has allowed a total of just three shots on goal. Vermes credits goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen as a big part of that feat.
"I say it all the time; I think he truly is the best goalkeeper in the league," said Vermes. "He's always connected to the game. It's hard to do that for 90 minutes as a goalkeeper because it's not like he gets a lot of shots. So all of a sudden, the 70th minute and boom you have to be on. That's where he is excellent."
But if any MLS club is capable of upsetting Sporting's shutout streak, it's New York.
The Red Bulls have a plethora of attacking options capable of striking at any moment. Their total of nine goals so far this term ties them with the Columbus Crew for second-most in the Eastern Conference.
Henry is the most important figure in New York's attack, which is why it was such a relief for Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke to see the Frenchman get on the scoresheet against United at the weekend.
"His goal was great," Petke said after the match. "And he could've probably had a couple more. A couple unlucky bounces, a couple unlucky situations.
"But, listen: Thierry's the best player in the league whenever he wants to be. Tonight, he showed how valuable he is. So, it's great to have him."