HARRISON, N.J. (AP) – Luke Rodgers scored his third goal in three games and the New York Red Bulls won their third straight game to take the Eastern Conference lead, beating Sporting Kansas City 1-0 on Saturday night in Major League Soccer.
Rodgers scored in the 22nd minute, streaking into the middle and blasting in a low, right-side cross from Dwayne De Rosario. Rafa Marquez started the play with a pinpoint pass to the creative De Rosario, who had his second assist since joining New York (4-1-2) in a trade with Toronto on April 1.
''I like to get in the box and try to score goals,'' Rodgers said. ''But I just want to play as many games as I can and get my fitness level to where it should be.''
Rodgers, who started in place of 18-year-old Juan Agudelo in Hans Backe's lineup because of his effectiveness working with French star Thierry Henry, had two goals two weeks ago against San Jose. Agudelo replaced Rodgers at the start of the second half.
Backe was upset with his team despite the victory.
''We looked fatigued,'' Backe said. ''The second half, we couldn't press them enough. We weren't sharp in the passing game or our movement. We've been so much sharper the last two or three weeks.''
Rodgers drew a yellow card 10 minutes later when he leaped over Nielsen as he tried to knock in a short rebound, only to catch the goalkeeper's mouth with his trailing right foot. That touched off a minor altercation, though no punches were exchanged.
''He spilled the ball and I went for it and caught the ball and followed through,'' Rodgers said. ''He wasn't hurt. If the same opportunity came up again, I'd do exactly the same thing.''
Sporting (1-4-1) had its best chance in the 60th minute when Graham Zusi sent a point-blank shot just above the crossbar. Kansas City is winless in five games.
''We were right around the box and we got a couple of really good sniffs here or there,'' Sporting coach Peter Vermes said. ''In the end, we didn't have the finish.''