Sporting KC returned to first place in the Eastern Conference with a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution. Teal Bunbury was the lone goal scorer although many fans did not even expect Teal to start as Peter Vermes was expected to field a reserve heavy starting XI against NE ahead of the club's huge USOC final against the Sounders on Wednesday. Despite the lineup the Revolution still performed well considering they had just lost their captain to Chivas USA earlier in the week.
The first half was very back and forth for both teams. The rapid play may have caught up to winger Bobby Convey who had to be replaced by Soony Saad in the 7th minute for a suspected hamstring injury. Nevertheless New England had the better of the chances in the first 10 minutes and at the forefront of that was American midfielder Lee Nguyen who lead the Revolution to 5 shots in the first half. While Nguyen was leading NE from the midfield, Matt Besler was leading SKC from the back with two very good tackles and a couple of clearing headers, something we're used to seeing from his French counterpart Aurelien Collin, who is currently out with an injury. But the real highlight of the half came in the 20th minute when Teal Bunbury forced the New England backline into a series of bad passes that eventually found the striker one on one with Matt Reis. Bunbury made no mistake with the finish and cleanly finessed the ball past Reis into the bottom corner. NE continued the pressure following the goal with two free kicks around the 27th minute but both were defended well by SKC.
Other first half thoughts:
Cesar's touches and passes looked off with his first appearance for KC in a while.
Zusi's creative juices looked to be flowing again.
It didn't take long for the second half to get going. New England carried over the intensity we saw in the first half while KC were still on their heels. This was especially evident in the 48th minute when Chris Tierney served in a perfect cross from the left hand side to an unmarked Dimitry Imbongo, luckily for KC, the header was over the bar.
Throughout the second half I noticed this game was suited perfectly for Olympian Roger Espinoza. Paulo Nagamura has been a serviceable replacement but Espinoza's tight touches and tireless work effort was clearly missed despite the win. Sporting KC's best second half chance came in the 69th minute when Kei Kamara served in a low ball from the right wing that found Teal Bunbury. Teal turned well and got a shot off that was unfortunately right into Reis' hands.
Other second half thoughts:
Olum looks as good a replacement as anyone we have to cover for the suspended Collin.
Bunbury played well as a hold up striker.