In the best-played MLS game I have seen this year, the New England Revolution gutted out a 2-0 victory over the defending champion Sporting Kansas City, scoring both their goals during second half stoppage time.
Prior to the stoppage time strikes, the biggest highlight – or more accurately, lowlight – was the red card given to Kansas City center back Aurelien Collin in the 74th minute, for a tackle deemed by referee Alan Kelly to be too dangerous. The call was debatable. It could’ve easily been a yellow card.
Even so, it should be considered only one of several factors that led to the game’s final score – a game both teams had practically an even chance to win. A tie would have been a fair result (and indeed the score was tied for more than 90 minutes).
Kansas City started the game strong, had more ball possession, especially in the first 15 minutes, and a few more scoring chances than the Revs. What the Revs had to counter this statistical advantage were four really excellent scoring chances, all better than Kansas City’s (with the possible exception of Sal Zizzo’s miss in the 26th minute).
In the 6th minute, Kansas City midfielder Oriol Rosell made a bad giveaway pass easily intercepted by Diego Fagundez. Fagundez passed to Lee Nguyen, whose quick shot well inside the KC penalty area was skillfully deflected by Collin. In the 14th minute, Jerry Bengtson had a wide-open opportunity, the kind that a goal poacher like himself should put away, but he hit it wide of the right post. In the 21st and 32nd minutes, Teal Bunbury had close-in shots, both well saved by keeper Eric Kronberg.
During regular time in the second half there were only five scoring chances – three for Kansas City and two for the Revs. Alex Martinez missed on two good shots, and Benny Feilhaber missed badly on his one golden opportunity. In the 80th minute, Kronberg had to punch away a Chris Tierney attempt, and in the 86th minute, Lee Nguyen fired a dangerous shot from outside the area.
From a technical standpoint, three poorly-executed shots on goal by Kansas City players stand out. The first was a flub by Toni Dovale (a Barcelona-trained player) in the 12th minute. Seth Sinovic fed him a nice cross in the 12th minute, a ball about 23 yards from the goal that should not have been difficult to get on target.
I can forgive shots that stray wide, but shots like this one that soar over the crossbar either betray basically deficient technique or lack of concentration. The second was a wide-open shot by Sal Zizzo in the 26th minute, from inside the box. He too missed well over the bar. The third was Feilhaber’s 76th-minute shot. As with Zizzo, his leg swing was wild and out of control. In soccer, as in golf and baseball, swinging too hard at the ball is usually counterproductive. You lose control.
But the biggest problem in all these misses was that the players pulled their heads up far too soon after making contact with the ball, aborting the leg follow-through and sending the ball up and over the crossbar.
My main point is that Kansas City had two excellent chances, and a good one to score. Converting on any of these three might have given them the win, but bad technique let them down. In this column, I often fault the Revs for finishing technique, but last night the technical lapses were mostly on the other side.
The Revs must be congratulated for the defensive clean sheet against one of the best offenses in the league. Despite the absence of Jose Goncalves and Kevin Alston, the defense was disciplined and well-prepared. I was especially pleased to see them running with the forwards instead of relying on the offside trap.
The game against Toronto will be interesting. I am curious how their new hotshots, Jermaine Defoe and Michael Bradley, are settling in.