Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sporting KC trails New England 2-1 on aggregate after first leg of Eastern Conference Semifinals

Sporting Kansas City fell to the New England Revolution 2-1 Saturday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., in the first leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. The two teams will conclude their two-game playoff series on Wednesday at Sporting Park.

Sporting KC controlled the run of play Saturday night with 62% of the possession, but the Revolution capitalized on their limited opportunities, converting two of three attempts on target. Aurelien Collin scored the lone goal for Sporting KC, his second-career playoff goal and his fourth goal in all competitions in 2013.

After a scoreless first half, New England broke the deadlock in the 55th minute. The scoring play began when 18-year-old striker Diego Fagundez dribbled into the Sporting KC penalty box and fired a shot on target.

Jimmy Nielsen stopped the initial attempt, but the rebound deflected off Revolution forward Juan Agudelo and landed at the foot of Andy Dorman. The Revolution midfielder tapped the ball into the empty net to give New England the lead in their first playoff game since 2009.

New England doubled their lead minutes later when Lee Nguyen dribbled deep into Sporting KC territory and found Kelyn Rowe 15 yards from goal. The second-year midfielder used the outside of his right foot to poke the ball past an out-stretched Nielsen in the 67th minute.

Sporting KC wasted little time cutting the deficit in half. After Graham Zusi sent a long free kick into Revolution territory, Jacob Peterson won a header and found Chance Myers toward the center of the penalty box. Myers sent a low ball to the six-yard box and C.J. Sapong re-directed the pass to an open Collin for an tap-in at the back post.

Sporting KC nearly found their equalizer minutes later when Zusi's cross in the 72nd minute was deflected to an unmarked Oriol Rosell. The Spanish midfielder took one touch and laced a shot that beat goalkeeper Matt Reis but the ball skipped just past the far post.

Reis made only two saves on the night but both came in crucial moments. In the 35th minute, Zusi found Teal Bunbury over the top of the Revolution defense. The speedy forward brought the looping ball down but Reis stood tall and blocked the striker's attempt.

Reis came up big again in the third minute of stoppage time. Sapong fought for a Matt Besler long ball and slotted it between two defenders to an open Dom Dwyer. The young striker took a touch and fired a rocket on target but Reis did well to parry away the final scoring attempt of the match.

Sporting KC will now return home for Wednesday's decisive second leg vs. the New England Revolution, presented by Ivy Funds.

The team that scores the most goals over the course of the two games will advance to the Eastern Conference Final. If the two teams are tied on aggregate after Wednesday's game, two 15-minute overtimes will be played and then penalty kicks, if necessary.