It’s a maxim that boils down the logic of nearly every sporting competition on the face of the earth: You can’t win unless you score. And that phrase rings especially true for the Revolution on Saturday when they face Sporting Kansas City in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals (8 p.m. ET at Gillette Stadium).
In their previous five meetings against Kansas City, the Revolution have come up short to the tune of an 0-3-2 record. The common thread? The Revolution have failed to score in each of those five contests.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps is well aware of the fierce challenge ahead.
“We've played them a few times, and obviously have had a tough time with them,” Heaps told the media on Wednesday. “So we have to be smart in how we play, but at the same time, prepare ourselves for their pressure, prepare ourselves for how they play, and try to make the game go our way."
Of course, turning the game in their favor against Kansas City hasn’t been an easy task since Rajko Lekic tallied a 38th-minute goal at Sporting Park on July 30, 2011. Since then, the Revolution have failed to find the back of the net in 502 consecutive minutes of action against KC.
Those offensive failures are no accident, either. Kansas City boasts a talented pair of center backs in Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin, as well as ex-Revolution left back Seth Sinovic. In fact, the last time the Revolution faced the defensively-stacked side, Kansas City handed them a humbling 3-0 defeat.
The loss not only exposed the Revolution defensively, it also cast a bright light on an offense that struggled mightily to generate chances. But not long after, the Revolution rediscovered its attacking rhythm, and ensured that the Aug. 10 loss was the last time they’d be kept off the board for the rest of the season.
“We're playing a little bit differently since the last time we played them,” Heaps said. “I think that we're finding our stride a little bit, chemistry-wise in the attack, so it's going to be a lot of the same things that have been successful for us in the last few weeks.”
While the Revolution certainly hope that their recent attacking success is a trend that continues on Saturday, Heaps knows that they’re going to have to weather the high-pressure approach Kansas City uses to suffocate its opponents.
"They're the best at disrupting anything you’re trying to do,” Heaps said, referring to Kansas City’s propensity to foul early and often. “They don’t give you any opportunity to play (because) they're trying to kill the game.”
So how does a team like the Revolution, a side that likes to play a savvy, quick-passing brand of soccer, avoid the temptation of getting tangled up in a foul-infested affair?
“We have to go out there and play our game and be ready for that, and prepare ourselves (knowing) that every time we get the ball, there's going to be a man on you and you're going to get whacked and play through that,” Heaps said. “(But) I think that as the game goes on, we'll be able to play our game.”
One thing Heaps isn’t concerned about is pre-game butterflies as his players get their first taste of postseason action.
“We're excited to be having this opportunity,” Heaps said. “But at the same time, there's a real good vibe in our locker room that the guys are hungry and that we want to keep this going."