Skip to content

MLS Playoff Preview: Sporting KC at New England Revolution

Nov 1, 2013, 7:55 PM EST

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. PRO general manager: LA/SEA referee Stott never issued “no second yellows” declaration

    Nov 25, 2014, 11:15 PM EST

    Zach Scott, Gyasi Zardes AP

    There were a lot of fouls in the first leg of Los Angeles and Seattle’s Western Conference final, and some were quite serious.

  2. WATCH: Nani makes Maribor’s defense look silly in Sporting CP’s UEFA Champions League win

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:45 PM EST

    Nani AP

    Like many fun to watch goals, the magic of the shooter is magnified by the mistakes of the defenders.

  3. Jose Mourinho to Schalke after Chelsea’s 5-0 win: “It’s not your fault”

    Nov 25, 2014, 10:00 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-SCHALKE-CHELSEA Getty Images

    “I think they have to accept we were too strong for them,” added Mourinho.

  4. Bob Bradley’s talks with a Swedish club have broken down; Staying at Stabaek?

    Nov 25, 2014, 9:16 PM EST

    Digitalsport.no Digitalsport.no

    We’ll be following who else comes calling for the Princeton man.

  5. Manchester United assistant Ryan Giggs thinks Chelsea’s the top dog, compares Louis van Gaal to Alex Ferguson

    Nov 25, 2014, 8:05 PM EST

    Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    Giggs calls the Stamford Bridge club “head and shoulders above the Premier League” on the strength of their back four.

  6. New York City FC rolls out jet black road jersey; How’d they do?

    Nov 25, 2014, 7:13 PM EST

    @NYCFC @NYCFC

    These will be hot in the summer. But are they hot now? What do you think?

  7. Out with the old? Colorado declines options on Buddle, Wynne, LaBrocca, but won’t rule out returns

    Nov 25, 2014, 6:51 PM EST

    Colorado Rapids v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

    Eleven players had their options declined on Tuesday, but Colorado says they could be back with the club in January.

  8. UEFA Champions League roundup: Chelsea win group, Man City’s late show, classy PSG

    Nov 25, 2014, 6:03 PM EST

    Recapping all the action from around Europe after a pivotal matchday in UCL play.

  9. West Brom, England striker Saido Berahino arrested for drinking and driving

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:55 PM EST

    Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    Berahino scored in the next match after his arrest, but has since gone cold.

  10. VIDEO: Robbie Rogers discusses new book, coming out on NBC’s “Today”

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:32 PM EST

    Robbie Rogers, Micheal Azira AP

    Rogers talked about how working with gay and lesbian youth organizations made him realize the impact he could make as an openly-gay player.

  11. Manchester City ready for almighty clash with AS Roma for last 16 spot

    Nov 25, 2014, 5:22 PM EST

    Frank Lampard Frank Lampard

    City’s late show sets up pulsating clash in the Italian capital next month.

  12. Manchester City 3-2 Bayern Munich: Aguero’s hat trick hands Citizens lifeline

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:46 PM EST

    Sergio Aguero Sergio Aguero

    Citizens grab last-gasp win to boost their chances of making the last 16.

  13. Schalke 0-5 Chelsea: Blues with an untouchable performance against old boss

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:33 PM EST

    Germany Soccer Champions League AP

    Five different players netted as Chelsea picked up its largest road Champions League win since 1999.

  14. VIDEO: Luis Suarez scores first goal for Barcelona

    Nov 25, 2014, 4:10 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C1-APOEL-BARCELONA FBL-EUR-C1-APOEL-BARCELONA

    Suarez is off and running for Barca with a goal of exceptional class. What else did you expect?

  15. Lionel Messi breaks Raul’s record for Champions League goals (video)

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:46 PM EST

    FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The only other active players in the Top Ten are Chelsea’s Didier Drogba (44) and Thierry Henry (50), who obviously isn’t active with a UEFA Champions League club.

  16. João Moutinho reportedly hands in transfer request at Monaco

    Nov 25, 2014, 3:10 PM EST

    Moutinho Getty Images

    With top-quality players hardly ever available in January, the Portguese international could be a hot commodity in England.

  17. Pele returns to the hospital days after kidney surgery

    Nov 25, 2014, 2:33 PM EST

    Pele AP

    A urinary infection has Pele in the hospital just 10 days after being released following surgery.

  18. LIVE – Champions League: Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich, Chelsea to Schalke

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:55 PM EST

    Can Toure shine against Chelsea? AP

    Follow the latest batch of UEFA Champions League matches, right here.

  19. Toronto FC reveals more details of BMO Field expansion

    Nov 25, 2014, 1:05 PM EST

    BMO Field

    To be completed in two phases,

  20. Chad Marshall wins 2014 MLS Defender of the Year award

    Nov 25, 2014, 12:11 PM EST

    Marshall AP

    “Air Marshall” not only earned his nickname, but helped to solidify an otherwise shaky back line.

Featured video

Week 12: Premier League recap