Jeff Bradley: Three things we learned about Sporting KC and their midfield mastery of New England

Let's be honest, had New England held on to win this series, it would have been one of the greatest heists in MLS history. Sporting KC had the upper hand in this match for nearly the entire 120 minutes, but give credit where it's due to Jay Heaps' young Revolution team and a veteran goalkeeper in Matt Reis, who nearly created a miraculous upset.

And despite being pushed to the limit, things still look promising for Peter Vermes and SKC as they head into their Eastern Conference Championship showdown with Houston.

Here's what we learned:

1. Vermes suddenly has options up top

Claudio Bieler looked inspired coming off the bench to aid the Sporting attack and scored the series-winner, his first goal since Sept. 7 (and first from the run of play since July 13). Is it enough to get the Designated Player back into the starting lineup?

That's possible, but Dom Dwyer also gave good minutes to the cause, so maybe Vermes will want to keep that fire hot under Bieler in the next round. Regardless, an SKC team that experienced its share of goalscoring droughts throughout the season is creating more chances and that depth up top should serve them well.

2. Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber can deliver

While Bieler got the goal, it was often enigmatic Feilhaber who deserves most of the credit for deciding the match. The sequence was the soccer equivalent of a pick-six in overtime of an NFL game, with Feilhaber jumping the route to intercept Reis' outlet throw to Diego Fagundez, steaming toward the box and picking out Bieler on the penalty spot for a side-foot finish.

WATCH: Live Postgame Rewind

Zusi and Feilhaber were inspired in this match, each showing the ability to pick their head up and find teammates in dangerous positions. Sporting's 4-3-3, when it's clicking, is fun to watch. And it's fun to watch when Zusi and Feilhaber are getting a lot of the ball.

3. How much crazier can Sporting Park get?

With their victory and the New Red Bulls' loss, Sporting KC now stand as the team in pole position to host MLS Cup, after the KC crowd seemed to will their team to victory following a 70th-minute scare that saw New England take the series lead.

Sporting fans are savvy enough to know their team had a similar matchup with Houston a year ago and could not overcome a 2-0 first-leg loss, falling 2-1 on aggregate to the MLS Cup final-bound Dynamo. That's not to mention what happened in 2011, when Houston went into Sporting Park and beat KC in what was a one-game Eastern Conference Championship. They'll be in a vengeful mood.


Stay connected: The official MLS app keeps you connected with the latest news, highlights, scores, standings, and analysis all for FREE. Download for iOS (Apple) or Download for Android