Sporting KC began their run towards the MLS Cup on Saturday night against the New England Revolution. New England had not scored a goal against Sporting KC in over 500 minutes of play between the two teams, but that ended on Saturday as the Revolution scored twice against Kansas City to win 2-1.
Sporting’s designated player Claudio Bieler didn’t travel with the club to New England on Saturday due to problems with his hamstring. His last start with the team was in August.
The first half began with New England attacking the Sporting KC goal, but none of their chances were threatening to Jimmy Nielsen’s goal. After the first 15 minutes, Sporting KC took control of the game, dominating New England in their own half. Sporting’s first chance to take the lead came in 17th minute. Graham Zusi played a great ball out wide to Jacob Peterson, who played in a cross to Teal Bunbury. Bunbury did well to get on the end of the ball and get a shot off, but his shot was deflected wide of the New England goal.
Bunbury had another great chance to score in the first half. Zusi played a great ball over the top of the New England back line to a streaking Bunbury who beat the offside trap. Bunbury controlled the ball beautifully, and found himself in a one-on-one situation with New England goalkeeper Matt Reis. But Bunbury’s shot went straight to Reis, who made an easy save.
The second half began a little unusually. The New England supporters section, called The Fort, covered Nielsen’s goal with streamers. This led to a minute or so delay in the game so maintenance crews could clear the goal. New England’s first goal of the game would come nine minutes later. Diego Fagundez found himself open on the right side of the pitch, and took a shot at the Sporting KC goal. Nielsen saved the initial shot that bounced to New England forward Juan Agudelo. The ball hit his chest, and fell to the feet of Andy Dorman, who easily tapped the ball into the back of the net. Sporting KC players protested that Dorman was offside when the ball was played to him by Agudelo, but replays showed that he was onside.
New England saw their lead double in the 64th minute. Midfielder Lee Nguyen played a great ball to Kelyn Rowe, who was able to slot the ball past Nielsen. New England was up 2-0, and Sporting KC looked like they would not find a goal to help their chances in the second leg. But defender Aurelien Collin was able to score his first MLS playoff goal to give Sporting KC hope in the second leg.
Zusi took a free kick from around midfield that found the head of Peterson. He was able to play the ball back into the box that fell to the feet of Chance Myers. Myers took a shot, and the ball bounced around in front of the goal until Collin was able to reach out and get the final touch on the ball to beat Reis.
Substitute Dom Dwyer had an excellent chance to equalize when he found himself open in the 18-yard box, but his bullet of a shot was saved by Reis. Sporting KC will play New England on Wednesday in leg two of the conference semifinals, trailing in the aggregate 2-1. They need at least a one goal advantage in the Wednesday game to force extra time and a shootout, and a two goal advantage would see them go through the conference finals.