FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution struck twice through Andy Dorman and Kelyn Rowe in the second half to open their 2013 playoff campaign with a 2-1 victory against Sporting Kansas City in front of 15,164 at Gillette Stadium. The Revolution now head to Kansas City for the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal with a one goal aggregate lead.
“It’s nice [to have an advantage], but we still want to go for a win,” said Rowe. “You never want to shoot for anything less. For us it’s going in to get a result like we did today – fight and then play.”
Dorman’s tap-in off a rebound from a Diego Fagundez shot gave the Revolution a 55th minute lead and was the Revolution’s first goal in 556 minutes against Sporting Kansas City.
Rowe would double the lead for the Revolution in the 67th minute with a well-placed shot to the lower corner after a set-up from Nguyen, but Sporting would respond just two minutes after to cut the lead back to one after the Revolution failed to clear a long free kick and Aurelien Collin was there to clean it up.
“It’s really difficult to play against Kansas City,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. “They have good pressure, they are tactical in how they manage the game – in terms of spacing, in terms of pressure, fouls, all of the above – so it’s very difficult to play, you know they’re the best in the league at it. We thought we could get something. We thought we needed to find a little bit of space at the right time, but it was really a good team effort.”
Heaps made just one change to the line-up that defeated the Columbus Crew 1-0 last weekend in the teams’ final regular season game to secure a playoff spot. Darrius Barnes replaced the injured Kevin Alston (right hamstring strain) at left back, while Chris Tierney (right ankle irritation) was also unavailable due to injury.
Sporting Kansas City had the first real chance of the match in the 17th minute when they caught New England’s defense out on a quick counter. Jacob Peterson found space on the right flank and sent in a low cross that just eluded Teal Bunbury in front of goal and A.J. Soares managed to direct out for a corner.
Off the ensuing corner kick, Kansas City nearly struck again when Graham Zusi found Chance Myers. Myers directed a header on frame, but Lee Nguyen was there to block it with his chest and clear it off the line.
“Zusi plays great balls in on free kicks and corners,” said Reis. “Their guy got free and just put one down into the turf and it skipped up – that’s why we’ve got guys on the post.”
Sporting then had the best chance of the half in the 35th minute when Zusi played Bunbury behind the defense. Bunbury ran in on goal, but shot right at Reis from close range and the veteran keeper made the save.
New England came out with renewed energy in the second half and took the lead in the 55th minute through Andy Dorman. Kelyn Rowe sent a long pass to Diego Fagundez on the right flank and the Revolution’s leading scorer ran into the box and blasted a shot on frame. Jimmy Nielsen made the save, but his rebound bounced off Agudelo and fell to Dorman for an easy tap-in, to put the home side in the lead. The goal was Dorman’s first of the season and first career playoff goal.
“It’s the best thing in the world playing football and the playoffs especially,” said Dorman. “Being in Europe the last five years, you forget how good the playoff environment is, how much a buzz there is around the game, the fans are brilliant and it’s a knockout and we’re still alive so far and we’ve got a big task on Wednesday ahead.”
Rowe doubled the lead for the Revolution in the 67th minute after Agudelo found Lee Nguyen at the top of the box. Nguyen played a pass to Rowe in the right side of the box, and the second year midfielder beat his defender to the ball and one-timed a shot past Nielsen to make it 2-0.
“I knew Lee can play that ball, so I made the run,” said Rowe. “I got a little tug, so I didn’t know if I could get there with my left foot. I decided to slide down and hit it with the outside of my right. I was a little worried; I was looking the whole way. I thought it was going to hit the post and go out. I was happy it went in.”
The two goal advantage was short lived, however, as a couple minutes later the Revolution failed to clear a long free kick. Aurelien Collin was there to finish off from close range and cut the deficit to one after Chance Myers and C.J. Sapong combined to get him the ball.
Kansas City then came close to equalizing in the 72nd minute, when Oriol Rosell blasted a long shot from about 30 yards. Rosell’s effort looked to have Reis beat, but rolled just wide of the post.
Then deep into stoppage time, Reis came up huge to keep the Revolution in the lead three minutes into stoppage time when substitute Dominic Dwyer got behind the defense and blasted a shot towards the near post. Reis managed to get just enough on it to punch the ball wide.
The Revolution now travel to Kansas City for the second leg at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.
“In this series, it’s like we’re at halftime,” said Reis. “So we’re up 2-1 at halftime and the more goals we have and the more pressure we can out on them is great for us. It’s going to be a tough task going in there and getting a result, but I like our chances.”