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Harrison, NJ (SportsNetwork. Greg Pateryn Jersey .com) - Sporting Kansas Citys MLS Cup defense will begin on Thursday when the club travels to Red Bull Arena to face Red Bull New York in the Eastern Conference play-in game. Kansas City finished the 2013 regular season in second place, one point back of the MLS Supporters Shield-winning Red Bulls. Sporting went on to win MLS Cup in the playoffs, but the 2014 campaign has been a significant deviation from last seasons success. Once in the discussion for the top seed in the East, a poor second half to the season yielded an abysmal 3-8-1 record after the All-Star Game, dropping Sporting to fifth place in the table. Kansas City concluded its regular season on Sunday with a disappointing 2-0 home loss to the Red Bulls. SKC head coach Peter Vermes cited the teams exhaustion as one of the main factors for the demise. To me, this isnt a bad loss from the point of view that the guys fought and tried, theyre just tired, Vermes said of the loss to RBNY. One is you make technical or tactical errors and the other is you make psychological errors when youre tired, and the guys are. There was really nothing we could do. Im not sure if Im not being clear, but when you have as many guys out as we do, at some point you have to understand you cant replace those guys. We have a salary cap. So were asking guys that are not regulars, not ready yet, to be 34-game times 90-type players. And theyre having to play like that on a regular basis. And not just through one competition, its been multiple. Ive painted those examples before, but I dont walk around with the guys and paint excuses to them based on that. We have to get healthy and I think that if our guys are recovered and healthy, we can give any team in this league a good game. The Red Bulls have also had to contend with CONCACAF Champions League fixtures this season, but head coach Mike Petke seems to have managed the extra fixtures more appropriately. New York essentially enters the postseason at full fitness, a testament to Petkes rotation policy. The Red Bulls rested captain Thierry Henry for Sundays meeting with Sporting, but the team rallied and earned a result in what Petke identified as one of the most enjoyable matches hes witnessed since assuming the managerial duties of his former club. This was one of the more enjoyable games since Ive been a coach, because you put a game plan out and you watch it executed, its a fun thing, Petke said after the match. Thats not always the case, but these guys were disciplined, they did exactly what we wanted to do and Im happy for them. We didnt celebrate like we won anything. Its just a good thing now we can go home and have a home game. Bradley Wright-Phillips stole the headlines by notching both goals on the night to finish with 27 goals on the campaign, tying Chris Wondolowski and Roy Lassiter for the single-season scoring record. But according to goalkeeper Luis Robles, the shutting out SKC striker Dom Dwyer was the biggest contributing factor to helping the Red Bulls march on to three points on Sunday. The thing that stuck out was defensively we limited Kansas Citys chances, said Robles, who only had to make two saves en route to recording his sixth clean sheet of the year. Realistically, they only had the one in the beginning with Dwyer and after that we won every second ball, were chasing balls down and it was a performance that we can really be proud of. Brian Flynn Jersey .J. - The New Jersey Devils know the odds are against them as they chase a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Brian Bellows Jersey . - After sewage backups, toilet overflows and foul smells surfaced the past two years, nothing at the Oakland Coliseum surprises the home team anymore. .Y. -- Mike Zigomaniss goal at 5:53 of the third period stood up as the winner as the Rochester Americans hung on to defeat the visiting Hamilton Bulldogs 3-2 on Saturday in American Hockey League action.TORONTO - When a Vancouver Whitecaps training session ended this week newcomer Mauro Rosales remained on the field doing some extra work with Kekuta Manneh. Rosales, the veteran Argentine midfielder acquired last week in a trade with Chivas USA, was the teacher and Manneh, the speedy Gambian left-wing, was an eager pupil. The two worked on some patterns which would allow Manneh to create space for himself and hopefully help generate more goals, something the Whitecaps desperately need as they prepare to face the Portland Timbers on Saturday night at BC Place Stadium in a Major League Soccer match that has playoff implications for both teams. "We are working on some tactics, how to break them down," said Manneh, 19. "We need to score goals. "Our whole team is doing a good job defensive wise. Its just attacking wise we need to figure something out and score more goals for the team." The Whitecaps (7-5-12) hold the fifth and final playoff spot in the MLSs Western Conference with 33 points, two ahead of the Timbers (7-8-10). The Colorado Rapids are also in the mix, sitting in seventh spot with 30 points. Vancouver has 10 regular-season games remain while Portland has nine. Both teams are coming off losses. Vancouver dropped a 2-0 decision to the L.A. Galaxy last weekend while the Timbers were beaten 4-2 by Seattle. The Whitecaps also won 4-3 in Portland the last time the teams met in June, their first MLS win over their Cascadia rivals. "Its a massive game for us," said Vancouver coach Carl Robinson. "We beat them in their own backyard earlier in the season. "We have to make sure we come with the same intensity. We have to bounce back. I think it was an OK performance against L.A. but I dont think we deserved to win. We have to make sure we do deserve to win and we get the win." Portland coach Caleb Porter said his team cant afford to squander any chance to pick up points, especially against a squad above them in the standings. "We have to keep fighting and grinding," Porter told reporters in Portland. "This game was going to be important whether we won against Seattle or not. "We have to get ready for Vancouver. The next nine games are going to determine whether or not we get in (the playoffs). Its probably going to come down to whether or not we get more points in the next nine games than Vancouver gets in the next 10." The Whitecaps have just two wins in their last 10 games (2-3-5). During that span Vancouver has managed just eight goals and has been scoreless four times, including three times in the lasst four games. Jamie Benn Jersey. Vancouver has speed up front with players like Manneh, Darren Mattocks and Erik Hurtado. One of the reasons the Whitecaps acquired Rosales was to insert a veteran into the lineup with a touch for delivering the ball and setting up scoring chances. Much of the playmaking has fallen to Pedro Morales — who leads the Whitecaps with nine assists — but Rosales will add some balance and poise. Prior to joining Chivas this year, Rosales spent three MLS seasons with Seattle, recording 12 goals and 34 assists in 86 matches. Since 2011, the 33-year-old has 42 assists, the second most in MLS. He started 16 of 21 games for Chivas, collecting eight assists. Manneh, who has struggled since suffering a pre-season back injury, has managed three goals this season but Rosales believes he has the ability to score more often. "Im just trying to be helpful," Rosales said. "He has the right energy and a lot of quality in his feet. "He just needs some advice. Not just him but everybody on the field needs to be organized, in good shape for these important games." Rosales has only been with the Whitecaps a week his influence is already being felt. "We definitely need this kind of player on the team," said Manneh. "All our attacking players have speed. Hes a different kind of player. Hes more of a playmaker and very tactical. Hes technically disciplined. If we can have a playmaker like him and Pedro deliver us the balls there wont be any excuses. I am really excited to play with him." So far Robinson has liked what hes seen from Rosales. "He has excellent delivery, excellent distribution," said the coach. "He brings a little bit of guile we have probably been lacking the last couple of games." At the start of the season the Whitecaps rained goals, scoring 16 in the first 10 games. Robinson said the recent goal drought can partly be attributed to teams playing better defence and his young team dealing with a long season. "If you look at teams through the league they go through periods of time when it doesnt go their way," he said. "Its a work in progress. We are in contention. We played some super stuff at the start of the year. We played some very good stuff recently without getting results. Were not scoring goals and its something we need to address." With both teams feeling the playoff pressure Saturdays game should have some edge. "It will be a high-octane game full of passion," said Robinson. "Tackles will be flying and some good football." 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