KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The New England Revolution are finally starting to reap the benefits of their hard work, according to head coach Steve Nicol after seeing his team extend its unbeaten run to three games with a 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
“We've worked hard all season,” Nicol told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We certainly haven't had the results that we wanted, but the effort has always been the same and the attitude has always been the same. Eventually and deservedly so, we're beginning to get some reward for it.”
A solid first half laid the groundwork for the Revolution's third consecutive road result. Sporting started brightly and tested the New England defense on a couple of occasions in the opening stages, but the Revs settled well and started to create some opportunities with better work in possession.
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“That's part of it on the road: You just have to weather the storm a little bit,” Revolution forward Zack Schilawski said. “I don't feel like we really gave them too much and then we were able to settle into our own game. We were able to work that really well in the first half.”
Schilawski and Shalrie Joseph both went close after the Revs conjured up some tidy sequences of play, but the breakthrough ultimately arrived through blunter means. Rajko Lekic raced behind the Sporting back line, latched onto Matt Reis' long lump up field and slotted home inside the near post to open the scoring seven minutes before halftime.
“It's so good because I'm here to score goals,” Lekic said. “I have only score four goals now, so every goal, for me, is important and important for the team. It's a big goal for me and a big goal for the team.”
Lekic's goal — and the halftime lead — ultimately reduced the Revolution's ambitions during the second half. Instead of building upon their decent spell during the first half, the Revs spent much of the second half soaking up the pressure heaped upon them by the home side.
“You're away from home, they're one down and they're going to push forward,” Nicol said. “If you follow the Xs and Os, you keep a high line and you don't drop back, but that's not how football works. They had five guys forward, so we couldn't just keep four guys there.”
New England held out gamely despite a few setbacks — Stephen McCarthy (shoulder) limped off during the first half, Kevin Alston (left toe injury) departed with cramping issues ten minutes from time and A.J. Soares controversially saw red for a tackle on C.J. Sapong after 82 minutes — in an attempt to collect all three points.
Sporting ultimately drew level with a minute to spare as Teal Bunbury scored for the first time since April 2 to give the home side their 13th consecutive result. The last-gasp goal left a bitter taste in the Revs' mouth at the final whistle, but Nicol said his side couldn't begrudge Sporting a draw on the evening after its second-half resurgence.
“If you're [Sporting], they probably deserve a point,” Nicol said. “In the second half, they definitely had the majority of the [play]. We defended well, but to lose the goal the way we did [was disappointing].”