FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Revolution coach Jay Heaps picked a good night not focus on the numbers, especially those pertaining to his club’s chances against Sporting Kansas City.
The Revolution entered Saturday’s first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals tethered to an embarrassing 501-minute goal drought against Kansas City -- a streak that stretched back to the 2011 season.
But that streak was far from his and his players’ minds on Saturday, and they did well to prove it as the Revolution scored twice within a 12-minutes span to secure a 2-1 win at Gillette Stadium.
“I don’t think we were really thinking about them being able to stop us,” Heaps said. “I think we were just thinking about how we needed to play, and how we needed step our game up.”
Given the way the first half unfolded, it was hard to tell just how the Revolution were going to step up their game against a team they hadn’t beaten in over two years. If anything, they were fortunate to escape an early scare.
In the 18th minute, Graham Zusi sent a corner in front of frame to Chance Myers, who headed well out of the reach of Matt Reis. But Lee Nguyen was right at the back post, and cleared Myers’ shot off the line to keep it scoreless.
On the attacking end, the Revolution scrapped together three shots, but couldn’t string together enough passes to mount a serious threat against the best defense in MLS.
Nevertheless, they survived to make it to halftime even with Kansas City, and finally capitalized in the 55th minute. Diego Fagundez ripped a shot that was initially denied by Jimmy Nielsen before the rebound fell to Juan Agudelo. Though the rebound clearly caught Agudelo by surprise, he was able to nudge it enough to allow Dorman to push it through.
“It was obviously good (to score),” Dorman said. “It obviously settled us down a little bit and then we went on to get the second. But, yeah, it was good to get the goal.”
That second goal arrived 12 minutes later, when Nguyen played a ball wide to Kelyn Rowe, who found himself with little space to operate. Nevertheless, the sophomore midfielder found a way to quickly redirect the pass into the back of the net in the 67th minute.
“I know Lee can play that ball, so I just made the run,” Rowe said. “I got a little tug so I didn’t know if I could get there with my left foot. I decided to slide it down and hit it with the outside of my right.”
But Kansas City quickly responded to Rowe’s goal. Myers sent a ball into the box, where he looked for C.J. Sapong, who hardly appeared to be in a favorable spot to score. Even so, he found a way to send it toward Aurelien Collin, who sent it into the back of the net in the 69th minute.
Shortly after Collin’s striker, the Revolution realized the need to clamp down and protect their narrow advantage, especially with the second leg at Sporting Park, a place they have never tasted victory. And yet, they’d need to survive another scare, this time with only seconds remaining.
In the 90+3 minute, Sapong played a ball forward to Dom Dwyer, whose quick shot would’ve leveled the contest unless Matt Reis wasn’t there to make an acrobatic save.
“It’s a huge save,” Heaps said. “It’s a long ball that bounces around and we have enough guys around it, but it seems to bounce to (Dwyer), who make a great move and (takes) a great hit. And Matt Reis’ reflexes are pretty amazing.”
While they may carry a one-goal advantage going into Wednesday’s second leg of the Conference semifinals, Heaps cautioned that another tough 90 minutes awaits at Sporting Park.
“It’s a step forward, but at the same time, it’s a very difficult road ahead,” Heaps said. “We have a one-goal lead and it’s (like) halftime, and we have a big, big battle (ahead) going to Kansas City.”