For Sporting Kansas City, they knew that the chances would be there in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Wednesday night at Sporting Park. It didn't matter how New England Revolution were going to play, they knew that the chances would come.
And they did.
The home side amassed more than 30 attempts on goal, including 10 shots on target, but no one shot more important than forward Claudio Bieler's 113th minute strike that punched Sporting Kansas City's ticket into the Eastern Conference Finals against familiar foe, Houston Dynamo.
"We came into this game with the idea that we were going to play," manager Peter Vermes said after the 3-1 (4-3 aggregate) victory. "We outplayed them tonight from the beginning of the game all the way to the end - we were fantastic. There's not much I can say about the determination, the ambition, of the players. Their effort from the first minute all the way through to the end of the game, and the way they managed the game, was exactly what we talked about during the week leading up to this game.
"I can't say enough about perseverance, their determination to make sure that they leave here with a win, and they did in an incredible fashion."
Bieler, who was unexpectedly absent in Saturday's loss to the Revolution, came on in the 84th minute for Dom Dwyer - entering with a scoreless drought dating back to early September.
However, the Argentine was not to be denied thanks in part to the play of midfielder Benny Feilhaber. With just seven minutes remaining in the second extra period, Feilhaber stormed in to intercept a Revolution pass, quickly turning towards goal to deliver a brilliant ball that found the foot of Bieler.
"Him [Claudio Bieler] going on, finding his right place on the field during a couple of those situations was huge for us," Vermes said regarding Bieler's performance. "He is what he is; he's a goal scorer. It's great to see him get his confidence back with that goal, because we need him down the stretch."
The revel of the Bieler's goal opposed the agony that Sporting Kansas City and the sold-out 19,031 Sporting Park-faithful went through just 40 minutes earlier. New England's Dimitry Imbongo had just struck home a free-kick to put the away side up in aggregate scoring 3-2, and it looked like Sporting Kansas City were about to face a third-straight year of heartbreak in the MLS playoffs.
"We let down our guard a little bit on that set-piece," defender Seth Sinovic said. "We always talk about every role to the ball and always being focused throughout the entire game, and I think we let our guard down on that goal, so it was obviously frustrating, but we knew we had plenty of time to get back into it. Thankfully we had an opportunity, and we took advantage of it."
That advantage came in the 79th minute when Sinovic blasted home a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Matt Reis to knot the aggregate scoring back up, which would eventually send the match into extra time where Sporting Kansas City found victory. It was Sinovic's second career MLS goal, and ironically, both coming in Eastern Conference Semifinal matches.
Sporting Kansas City will now go on to face rival Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Dynamo have knocked Sporting Kansas City out of the playoffs the past two years, including the Conference Finals in 2011 where Sporting Kansas City fell in aggregate 2-0.
The first leg will be on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CT on Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium live on NBC. Vermes' squad will then return home for the second leg on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 6:30 p.m. CT.
"I think it's going to be a tough challenge," defender Matt Besler said. "We get the first leg there and the second leg back here. Hopefully, I guess the third time is the charm."