Kelyn Rowe’s 67th-minute game-winner gave the Revolution a 2-1 win over Kansas City in Saturday’s first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Here are five takeaways from the victory that put the Revolution ahead on aggregate going into Wednesday’s second leg at Sporting Park:
It wasn’t pretty, but credit the Revolution for making the most of their chances. For the second straight week, the Revolution struggled to string together passes, and they played right into Kansas City’s hands for much of the match. With a 59.8 percent passing accuracy rate, along with a 37.9 percent possession figure, the Revolution really had no business getting on the board. But that’s the funny thing about the postseason: All it takes is a lucky bounce or moment of brilliance for a team to flip its fortunes. And the Revolution capitalized on both. Andy Dorman’s goal came after Juan Agudelo was able to push a wayward Diego Fagundez rebound toward the frame, while Rowe’s first-touch chip was weighted just well enough to beat Nielsen and find the inside of the far post. They won’t be in line for style points, to be sure, but they can take solace in the one-goal aggregate lead they’ll take to Sporting Park on Wednesday.
Nguyen’s goal-line clearance in the 18th minute may have changed the outcome. While Dorman and Rowe cast themselves into the spotlight on Saturday, it’s fair to say that it could have been a much different match had Lee Nguyen failed to step up in a big way during the 18th minute. After all, Kansas City should have scored when Chance Myers glanced a Graham Zusi corner kick well out of the reach of Matt Reis. But even though Reis wasn’t close by, Nguyen was, and immediately cleared Myers’ effort out of danger. Had Nguyen not been there to guard the back post, Myers not only scores, but the goal probably allows Kansas City to see the result through.
Reis showed why he’s still one of the best postseason performers. What more can you say about the Revolution goalkeeper? For all the praise that Jimmy Nielsen gets as one of the league’s best between the pipes, Reis continues to rise to the occasion at the most crucial moments. Although he wasn’t tested often, his reaction save on Teal Bunbury in the 34th minute allowed the Revolution to keep the match scoreless at halftime, which is no easy feat against Kansas City. But in the final seconds of stoppage time, Reis authored his finest moment. After Dom Dwyer secured a C.J. Sapong pass, he ripped a screaming shot en route to the upper 90 before Reis acrobatically pushed it away. He may have been four years removed from his last playoff match, but you could hardly tell given his performance in Saturday’s semifinals.
The Revolution have to do better to win second balls. One thing that certainly didn’t help the Revolution’s possession stat -- besides their passing accuracy rate, of course -- was their inability to keep the ball for very long. Not only were second passes regularly intercepted by Kansas City defenders and midfielders, but wins on aerial duels often went to waste after the guests quickly reclaimed possession. True, part of the reason why the Revolution struggled on second balls was due to Kansas City’s assertiveness in the middle third. But the Revolution were also their own worst enemy. Between their poor touches and static form in the midfield, the Revolution often played right into Kansas City’s hands, especially in the first half.
Agudelo didn't fire a single shot, but his impact certainly was felt. At first blush, it’s difficult to categorize a night in which a striker fails to record a shot -- on target or off -- as a success. And the record will show that Agudelo registered a zero in the shot department. But there’s no denying that the Revolution wouldn’t have found a way to win without him on Saturday. In the 55th minute, he positioned himself perfectly to set up Dorman’s goal. Twelve minutes later, he not only fed Nguyen en route to Rowe’s goal, but the striker also lured Uri Rosell into the box, giving Rowe a clear shot. While he was an active participant on both Revolution goals, credit also should be given for enduring the punishment (four fouls suffered) dished out by Aurelien Collin for 90 minutes.