Skip to content

MLS Playoff Preview: Sporting KC at New England Revolution

Nov 1, 2013, 7:55 PM EDT

Philadelphia Union v Sporting Kansas City Getty Images
  • Kickoff from Gillette Stadium outside Boston is set for 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN
  • Saturday is the first of two legs in the aggregate goals series
  • The Revolution is playing its firsts playoff match since 2009
  • Sporting Kansas City was the league’s best road team this year, an 8-5-4 record, and also the best defensive team
  • Young scoring sensation Diego Fagundez, just 18, led the Revolution with 13 goals this year

In Saturday’s Eastern Conference semifinal opener, we have a textbook instance of a playoff newbie in terms of the current roster and team makeup (New England) against an old hand at this MLS playoff business.

New England, a team with so much MLS playoff success in the previous decade, is back into the post-season swing for the first time since 2009.

Meanwhile, not only has Sporting Kansas City made the playoffs for the third consecutive season, but Peter Vermes’ team delivered relatively strong post-season accounts the last two years. Sporting trounced Colorado in the 2011 conference semifinal before falling to Houston in a tight conference final.

And came the downfall from Houston again in 2012, although Vermes’ team was strong in the return leg in the Midwest, dominating the Dynamo at Sporting Park (out-shooting the visitors 20-3) but falling a goal short on aggregate.

So a big edge in playoff experience goes to the visitors Saturday, a team that certainly doesn’t mind playing on the road. Sporting KC’s 28 points earned away from home this year (an 8-5-3 record) was best in MLS by some distance.

Kansas City is also the league’s top defensive team, with just 30 goals allowed.

Plus, Sporting KC went undefeated in Group Stage of Champions League – in fact, only allowing two goals in four matches while advancing to next year’s quarterfinals – while adding even more “big-game” largesse to this year’s checklist of achievement. Mostly though, it’s that feeling of being close to accomplishing something special the last two years, taking hardy sides into the playoffs but coming up short, that is providing all the drive to this year’s post-season bid.

“We’ve got a good, core group of guys that have been through this the last three years,” Vermes said this week. “That gives us, not comparing us to anyone else in the league, that just gives us a much better foundation as we move through the playoffs.”

The “foundation” includes what is probably the top back five in the playoffs (back four plus goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, that is). Center back Matt Besler, a U.S. starter, provides the stabilizing arm alongside the more volatile side the duo, Frenchman Aurélien Collin. In fact, we talk so much about those two that we probably don’t spend enough time commenting on right back Chance Myers and left back Seth Sinovic, both of whom are tough one-on-one defenders who can contribute a little punch to the attack, too.

Sporting KC’s offense mostly goes through U.S. international Graham Zusi (pictured above), whose assist total was down this year (from 15 to 8), but who did drop a career-best in goals, with six. Zusi’s recent return from a minor fall injury setback was among the reasons Sporting Kansas City finished on a four-game undefeated streak. Vermes’ team also won six of its last eight matches – and that was all after Kei Kamara left for England in a summer transfer.

New England has a little momentum of its own, however. Jay Heaps’ team from outside Boston looked a bit dead in the Back Bay about a month ago, staring at a tough schedule of road games, in need of a bunch of points to punch its way into the post-season. Well, punch they did, gathering up huge road wins at Montreal and Columbus, in addition to a draw at Supporters Shield winners New York, all in the month of October.

source: Getty Images

New England’s Diego Fagundez, only 18 … but he just finished tied in league scoring with a team-leading 13 goals.

Heaps’ team clinched its playoff spot just last weekend, in fact, with that 1-0 win at Crew Stadium.

One of the great things about having New England back in the playoffs is another chance to see Diego Fagundez, the Revs’ 18-year-old scoring sensation. Fagundez, finished tied for fifth in league scoring – and imagine what he could have done had he been the Revs’ PK taker, as league scoring leaders so frequently are.

He usually lines up wide (left lately) in the Revs’ 4-1-4-1 arrangement.

At the other end of the experience spectrum is goalkeeper Matt Reis, who lost his place this year – a difficult year that included unfortunate family involvement in the Boston Marathon bombings. Reis got things together and will be big part of this playoff push. So will center back Jose Goncalves, one of the real finds of the Major League’s Soccer’s off-season.

Another intriguing figure in a team full of them is Juan Agudelo, a young U.S. international (a bit farther back in the pool) who shook off some late-season injury struggles to make the Revs’ last four starts. In fact, his first goal since Aug. 25 was the playoff clincher last weekend against Columbus. Agudelo has already signed to play for Stoke City in January.

(MORE on MLS playoffs: ProSoccerTalk’s post-season picks and predictions)

Latest Posts
  1. EXCLUSIVE: Luke Shaw speaks out about Manchester United move

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT

    Courtesy: Manchester United Courtesy: Manchester United

    Shaw speaks to PST: “Manchester United are the biggest club in the world. I didn’t think twice when they wanted to sign me.”

  2. Pep Guardiola praises Jurgen Klinsmann’s team concept, USMNT movement

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:39 PM EDT

    Jurgen_Klinsmann_1381686c AP

    When a guy many consider a footballing genius gives the United States coach praise, that’s a pretty cool feather in Klinsmann’s cap.

  3. Premier League teams on US Soil: Tuesday’s roundup and look ahead

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT

    10406860_10101280893066982_394995962427761541_n

    Premier Leaguers in the U.S. on Tuesday = A day of open training sessions, autographs, football helmets and golf clubs.

  4. Racial incident against Man City’s Fofana ends U-21 match in Croatia

    Jul 22, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    twitter.com/sekofofana twitter.com/sekofofana

    The 19-year-old is a promising prospect, but is dealing with negative headlines after being subject to abuse on Tuesday in Croatia.

  5. Southampton fail in bid to bring England WC goalie back to Premier League

    Jul 22, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT

    England Training Session and Press Conference Getty Images

    Fraser Forster will be sticking at Celtic, for now, after Southampton reportedly lowballed the Scottish powers.

  6. Beckham visits Manchester United; Team responds with many ‘selfies’

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    BtLQf7KCQAAehgb

    Hand on shoulder, hair-coiffed, warm smile… next! Becks makes the rounds on the United’s U.S. tour.

  7. Sorting through the most recent DaMarcus Beasley-to-MLS reports

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    APER SOC BEASLEY

    There have been reports of where the 32-year-old American left sider will not be going, but little as to where he will.

  8. WATCH: James hugs pitch invader; Bernabeu goes bananas for new star

    Jul 22, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT

    James Rodriguez Officially Unveiled At Real Madrid Getty Images

    For every “stars… they’re just like us” moment a player gives you, there are moments like this, which will not happen to 99.9999% of us at work in our lives

  9. Report: Xavi’s move to New York City FC collapses, will remain at Barcelona

    Jul 22, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT

    Xavi Hernandez, Marc Bartra

    Xavi set to remain at Barcelona until January, at least.

  10. Stoke City pull off superb signing, land Bojan Krkic from Barcelona

    Jul 22, 2014, 2:04 PM EDT

    bojan Getty Images

    Yeah. This is actually happened… as Stoke pull off a major coup.

  11. Pep Guardiola: For now, Julian Green will remain with Bayern Munich’s first team

    Jul 22, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT

    Green

    Guardiola: “He trains well, he’s a good guy and my first idea is that he’s going to stay for the rest of the season.”

  12. Liverpool’s move for Dejan Lovren could be back on

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Will Lovren become the third Saints player to join Liverpool this summer? If the price is right, it sure looks that way.

  13. Do Real Madrid need $107 million James Rodriguez? Where will he play?

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT

    Rodriguez AP

    Where will Rodriguez line up next season for Real? Here’s an in-depth look at the options.

  14. Back to the future: Dunga confirmed as Brazil’s new manager

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:56 AM EDT

    Carlos Dunga

    Second time around, Dunga will lead Brazil’s new era.

  15. Where does James Rodriguez’s $107 million transfer fee rank all-time?

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

    james_rodriguez AP

    What do you get for $107 million in today’s world? A red-hot 23-year-old Colombian striker, that’s what.

  16. Jurgen Klopp denies Mats Hummels is heading to Manchester United, for now

    Jul 22, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    Borussia Dortmund's coach Klopp waves to supporters at the end of their Champions League quarter final first leg soccer match against Malaga in Malaga

    Klopp says Hummels is not for sale… not at the price reported anyway.

  17. Real Madrid sign James Rodriguez for $107 million

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:51 AM EDT

    james_rodriguez AP

    James is officially a Real Madrid player.

  18. Shakhtar players reveal “deadly risk” and fear of returning to Ukraine

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:42 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Douglas Costa: “We all run a deadly risk if we are in the region.”

  19. Manchester United linked with $55 million Juan Cuadrado move

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:49 AM EDT

    Colombia v Uruguay: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Will the Colombian winger be heading to Old Trafford this summer?

  20. James Rodriguez to be unveiled by Real Madrid on Tuesday, join club for U.S. tour

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:10 AM EDT

    Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates after scoring during the group C World Cup soccer match between Japan and Colombia at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) AP

    23-year-old will complete his $107 million move and be introduced at the Santiago Bernabéu.