FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The success or failure of the New England Revolution's first postseason game since 2009 likely hinges on one fundamental accomplishment on Saturday night.
Jay Heaps' side must find some way to break its 501-minute scoring drought against Sporting Kansas City and secure a foothold in the first leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
No Revolution player has scored against Sporting since Rajko Lekic hit the back of the net on July 30, 2011. The five-game drought in regular season play leaves the Revs with considerable work to do in front of goal to breach the Sporting rearguard, but defender A.J. Soares said the protracted dry spell isn't a matter of concern heading into the match at Gillette Stadium (8 pm ET; NBCSN, RDS2).
“I'm not worried about that,” Soares told MLSsoccer.com. “I've never thought about that. We're a different team today than we were last week. And we're a different team than we were four months ago. It's nothing that we're worried about.”
Although the duration of the goalless streak matters little at this stage, the Revs must still devise a route through the Sporting defense to procure the desired result on Saturday night. Kansas City's aggressive defensive approach – a 4-3-3 setup fueled by high pressure up top and predicated on limiting chances by the opposition – places teams under duress from the outset.
Heaps said his players must rely upon the rhythm and the understanding generated during the club's six-match unbeaten run to end the season to relieve the pressure and slice open the resolute defensive shape.
“They're a difficult team,” Heaps said. “They defend well. They're the best defensive team in the league by design and I think they've got good defenders. So it's going to be a combination of things. We're playing a little differently since the last time we played them.
"I think we're finding our stride a little bit chemistry-wise in the attack. It'll be a lot of the same things that have been successful for us over the past few weeks that we'll try to use to score against Kansas City.”
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If the Revs can replicate the incisiveness and the movement used to produce 11 goals during the past six outings, then they might find a way through against Sporting for the first time in a couple of years. As Soares rather astutely noted, the present – and how the Revs can mold it – matters far more than the past during this two-legged tie.
“It's one game, 90 minutes on Saturday,” Soares said. “We'll go forward from there. All we have to do is score on Saturday. That's all we're looking about trying to do, aside from keeping them from scoring.”