First Look: Sporting Kansas City

Coming off the improbable point they pilfered from the Chicago Fire in a 1-1 draw at Toyota Park, the New England Revolution (2-3-2, 8 points) will face their toughest challenge yet when Sporting Kansas City (3-1-2, 11 points) visits Gillette Stadium on Saturday.

Saturday’s match will be the first time these sides will meet since last year’s epic Conference semifinal series, which saw the Revolution stake seperate leads before Sporting Kansas City emerged late to beat them 4-3 on aggregate.

With the Revolution looking for a little bit of payback against their postseason foe, here are a few things you need to know about Saturday’s rematch.

Sporting Kansas City is showing no signs of loosening their grip on the MLS Cup trophy. After dropping a gutting, stoppage time defeat to the Seattle Sounders back in Week 1, Peter Vermes’ men haven’t looked back. Undefeated in their last five (3-0-2), Kansas City is getting it done in nearly every key statistical category going into Saturday’s match. They rank first in possession (57.9 percent), second in shots per game (15), first in shots on target (5.8), and third in pass success (80.2 percent). Making matters worse for the local XI: Kansas City enters Saturday’s match off a 4-0 dismantling of Montreal. It’s fair to say that the Revolution better have their scoring boots tightly laced once they step onto the pitch on Saturday.

No Alston, no offense? Since returning from the hamstring injury that forced him to miss the better part of the club’s first five games, Kevin Alston has been nothing short of a revelation for the Revolution. Not only has he proven himself capable in the rear, but he’s added some desperately-needed spark and unpredictability to the local XI’s lagging offense. In two games, he’s both scored and set up a penalty strike thanks to dangerous runs into the final third. But after he was red carded for handling inside the area last week, Alston won’t be able to aid the Revolution attack on Saturday. As a result, the goals may that much harder to come by against the best defense in the league (0.67 goals against average).

Beware the set piece. Not that it’s surprising by any means, but Kansas City remains one of the best teams in the league when it comes to attacking set pieces. Through their first six, they’ve scored three set piece goals, and have shown no signs of slowing down when it comes to aerial dominance (20.5 aerial wins per game average, good for 3rd in MLS). Meanwhile, Dom Dwyer has done well to pounce on any defensive miscues on said dead ball situations. With Kansas City possibly stronger than they’ve ever been as of late, the Revolution will have to significantly cut down on the mistakes that plagued them at Toyota Park last weekend.

Last week’s stat of concern: The Revolution recorded a season-low four total shots last week against the Fire. You can’t score if you don’t shoot (own goals aside, of course), and if you don’t shoot, well, you might as well wish for more own goals.

Early weather  forecast: 62 degrees with a 30 percent chance of showers (source: weather.com)

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He regularly contributes to The Associated Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or contact him via e-mail at BOConnell21@aol.com