New England Revolution vs. Sporting KC | MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinal Preview
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION v SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Nov. 2, 2013 (MLS Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Semifinals, First Leg)
(8 p.m. ET; NBC SN; CSN-NE; KSMO)
One recent mainstay to the MLS Cup playoffs and another relative newcomer will meet Saturday when the New England Revolution play host to Sporting Kansas City in the first leg of an Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup. New England closed out the MLS regular season with three consecutive victories, matching their season-long winning streak, to clinch the No. 3 spot in the East and the club’s first postseason berth in four years. Sporting Kansas City also ended the season on a hot streak, having won six of their last eight games to finish with the league’s second-best record and clinch their third straight postseason appearance.
REFEREE: Ismail Elfath. SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): Corey Rockwell; 4th: Jorge Gonzalez
LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: NE 13 wins (1 SO), 54 GF … KC 23 wins (1 SO), 74 GF … Ties 11
2013 HEAD-TO-HEAD: KC 1 win, 3 GF … NE 0 wins, 0 GF … 1 tie
AT GILLETTE STADIUM:
3/23: NE 0, KC 0
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: First meeting.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
- The Revolution ended the regular season with three consecutive victories – matching their longest winning streak of the season – to clinch the club's first postseason berth in four years. The Revs are undefeated in their last six games.
- “We're not celebrating by any means,” Revolution defender A.J. Soares said. “That's not at all our mentality. We have another game. We're going to approach it just like we've approached these games. We're going to go and we're going to try and win. That's all we can do at this point.”
- Matt Reis completed the season without suffering a defeat in any of his 11 decisions (7-0-4) – the first goalkeeper in MLS to not lose a game with 10 starts or more. Reis also ended with the league's lowest goals against average at 0.72 over 995 minutes – Jimmy Nielsen had a 0.88 GAA in 3,060 minutes.
- “It's good for the organization,” Reis said. “It's always tough not being in the playoffs. The last couple of years have been really rough on us. We've put together a great team."
- Jose Goncalves finished the season as one of seven players in MLS to play every minute of every game (3,060 minutes). But he was nearly forced off after just 5 minutes of the season finale. "He played with a lot of grit and he really wanted the playoffs. It shows and now we need to get him recovered because he is a big part of what we are doing," Heaps said.
- Juan Agudelo made his fourth consecutive start, again in a wide attacking role, and scored his first goal since Aug. 25 in sealing the Revolution's triumph.
- Kevin Alston made his first start since Aug. 10 in the finale in Columbus, starting at right back, but was forced off with 15 minutes to play with a hamstring injury.
- "Throughout the week we kind of planned for that. We knew it wasn’t known who was going to start with Chris Tierney out. I thought Darrius [Barnes] came in and did an amazing job. He won many balls in the air," said midfielder Kelyn Rowe. "Dimitry [Imbongo] and [Juan] Agudelo held it well enough for us, we’ve just got to get that extra pass. Overall, we got the win and we’re in the playoffs so we’re happy."
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
- Sporting come into the MLS Cup Playoffs riding a four-game undefeated streak. They won six of their last eight league matches to finish with the second-best record in the league.
- "This win is big for a number of reasons. It gives us ... no worse than second most points in the league so you’re looking at MLS Cup and hosting that. It also just gives us confidence. We are team that believes in our system, we know what works and we are playing with confidence going into the playoffs,” said defender Matt Besler.
- Sporting did concede their first goal in four matches, seeing their shutout streak end after 412 minutes, the fourth-longest in MLS this season. It was SKC's second longest this year – they own the longest shutout in the league in 2013 at 546 minutes.
- "I think going into the playoffs, having to experience something like that this late in the season was excellent for us as we go through the playoffs,” said SKC manager Peter Vermes.
- Lawrence Olum first collected his first career MLS assist – then scored his first MLS goal – in leading Sporting to the season-ending win at Philadelphia. “He was at the right place at the right time,” said Vermes. “Scoring goals is not usually his thing, but when you understand the game, you put yourself there at the right moment. He was there, and it was an awesome, awesome opportunity for him to finish off."
- Graham Zusi returned to the starting lineup for the first time in three matches vs. Philadelphia, and scored his eighth goal of the season. That is a new career season-high, and just three away from his total over his first four MLS seasons.
- Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen finished with an 0.88 goals against average, playing every minute of every game, his second consecutive year allowing less than a goal per game while playing in every league match.
- Sporting also finished with the most away wins in MLS this season (8), and allowed just 15 goals on their travels. "Everybody thinks making the playoffs in this league is a lay-up, and there’s no chance. When you look at, over the course of a season, the parity and how close everyone is right now in both conferences, except for a few outliers. That parity gives you the opportunity to beat anybody week in and week out,” said Vermes.