The New England Revolution hosted their first playoff game in four years as they beat Sporting Kansas City 2-1 in front of 15,164 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. NE goals from Andy Dorman and Kelyn Rowe. Aurelien Collin scored for SKC.
This was far from a vintage New England opponent as they struggled to string two passes together against a physical opponent. New England’s 37.9% possession for the game is something that the Revolution will have to improve if they are to advance to the conference finals.
But New England head to Kansas City still in this tie largely because of the play of veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis who made two terrific saves. In the first he denied Teal Bunbury when he got behind the NE line and then deep in added time he denied Dominic Dwyer to preserve the win.
What will give Jay Heaps and New Revolution encouragement heading to Kansas City was that they were able to score two goals on only 3 shots on target. New England has to believe that they can go to Kansas City and score on Wednesday which means Kansas City will need tat least two goals to advance as that might be a difficult task for them.
The wild card for the return leg will be the referee. Tonight’s referee Ismail Elfath was poor, keeping his card in his pocket in the first half while both teams were physical. As a result in the second half he ended up handing out 7 yellow cards and if both teams play like this on Wednesday neither side will end up with 11 players on the pitch at the end of the game.
Two big questions leading up to the game were how healthy were the Revolution and could Andy Dorman control the midfield?
New England limped into the playoffs literally with fullbacks Chris Tierney and Kevin Alston and central defender Jose Goncalves all battling injuries. Goncalves was the only one of the three to feature against Sporting Kansas City, which meant that Darrius Barnes had to play left back, a position that he is not comfortable in.
And that showed at both ends of the pitch. Defensively, Sporting Kansas attacked often down the right, with most of their best scoring chances coming via cross from the right.
Offensively, Barnes is not the attacking threat that Tierney or Alston is, which meant that NE lacked the width down the left that they usually have, making it easier for SKC to defend, especially in the first half as New England’s attacks were mainly through the middle.
One of the reasons behind the Revolutions late run has been the play of Andy Dorman. Up until a month ago, Dorman’s main contribution to the NE season has been a couple of red cards but as the season would down, Jay Heaps went with Dorman in the holding midfield place instead of rookie Scott Caldwell and Dorman has been exceptional. Without Dorman in the line-up I am not sure that the Revolution makes the playoffs.
So if New England are to get past Sporting Kansas on Wednesday they will need another big performance from Dorman and some width from Barnes/Tierney/Alston