FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For two minutes at least, it looked like Sporting Kansas City were in store for a bitter case of playoff déjà vu.
Like the Houston Dynamo almost exactly a year before them, the New England Revolution held a 2-0 lead in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Andy Dorman and Kelyn Rowe erasing 50-plus minutes of Sporting dominance in a little more than 10 minutes.
But unlike last season, when Sporting’s wayward finishing forced them to head home with a two-goal deficit, Aurelien Collin’s stabbing finish from point-blank range just 120 seconds after Rowe found the bottom corner gave the visitors a lifeline that may very well extend their postseason lives past next Wednesday’s second leg.
“We remember last year how Houston was dropping, dropping and defending. We expect the same thing from [New England],” Collin told MLSsoccer.com, his legs soaking in a postgame ice bath following the Revs’ 2-1 victory. “It’s always easier to score one goal than two goals, so it was very important to score that goal. Hopefully the league would be like Europe – when you score away, it would double. We’re not there yet, so we just need to score a goal to tie it then score another one to win the semifinal.”
And while a two-goal deficit certainly wouldn’t have been insurmountable, Sporting are well aware they may have avoided another early playoff exit by clawing back within one.
Now they’ll head back to Sporting Park for the deciding fixture, a building in which they scored 29 of their 47 goals this season, averaging 1.71 goals per game in front of their home fans while giving up less than one per contest. Now, instead of stretching themselves, Kansas City simply have to follow the pattern they established all season long.
“All I had in my head was that we needed at least one goal, and we got that goal,” goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen said. “I still have a big belief that we can still turn this around.”
That belief is buoyed by the fact that Sporting had accumulated more than 500 consecutive scoreless minutes against New England before Dorman bundled the ball home from close range.
They choked the life out of the Revs’ attack for the first 55 minutes as well, with Diego Fagundez a non-factor and Juan Agudelo occupied by an ongoing battle with Collin and Matt Besler that the Sporting KC duo was winning without much difficulty before Dorman’s disputed goal and a little “bad luck” gave New England a jolt of confidence.
Playoff Central: Recapping NE-SKC
“We were in position, very focused, very disciplined. We controlled the whole game,” Collin said. “We tried to play as much as we could. We had a lot of opportunities. They didn’t have any opportunities other than these two actions. Congratulations to them, but honestly I feel very confident for the next game at our place, on our field, in front of our fans. We’ll do the right job.”