On a night with exciting opportunities for both sides, it was a very anticlimactic goal that gave the New England Revolution all three points. Sporting KC were lacking the bite we have seen so much this season and it’ll be a frustrating trip back to Kansas City after losing in such fashion.
Yohan Croizet set the tone for the first half after earning a corner kick with a dangerous shot about 10 seconds into the match. As expected in a match between these two teams, it was a wide open affair. The action was relentless and it seemed the ball the was in either box most of the time.
Sporting Kansas City won six corner kicks in the opening 45 minutes and every single one of them was taken short and methodically. Johnny Russell was always involved and they were looking to recreate his third goal from a week ago. In the 28th minute, they nearly pulled it off again. The Scotsman flew into the box hugging the end-line until the final moment. He tried to sneak it across the face of goal but the ball was snatched up by NE keeper Matt Turner.
The Revolution didn’t skip a beat and nearly scored just two minutes later. Ike Opara deflected a cross into the box that was slowly rolling into the path of Teal Bunbury. Jimmy Medranda was putting pressure on him but it was Khiry Shelton (yes, the striker) who made a miraculous last-minute tackle to save a goal. He may still be scoreless on the season, but he got a +1 in my personal record book for that effort.
As the clock rolled into stoppage time, New England found the decisive goal rather awkwardly. Roger Espinoza tracked back to get a tackle on Diego Fagundez at the top of the box. Unfortunately his intervention sent the ball right to the feet of Bunbury. The former SKC man was a mile offside so he lackadaisically turned and slotted in home without celebration. The referees took another look with VAR and judged that Espinoza had played the ball and therefore Bunbury was not offside. All of a sudden the score was 1-0 to the Revolution.
There did not appear to be “clear and convincing” evidence that Fagundez had NOT touched the ball himself. The review was made more complicated because the players may have been influenced by the raised flag of the assistant referee.
The second half was much more quiet. Neither team mustered a shot until the 62nd minute. Tim Melia was called into action a couple times and he came up with a huge, diving save at the 67 minute mark. Croizet, who had been a non-factor most of the evening, was taken out a minute later in favor of defender Seth Sinovic.
Peter Vermes made a positive move in the 77th minute when he brought in Kharlton Belmar for Medranda. It was the first MLS appearance this season for Belmar, who leads the USL with seven goals.
In the final ten minutes the Revs took a more defensive posture and Sporting KC turned up the intensity. Shelton had a free header and a golden opportunity to level the match, but missed the goal entirely (never mind about that whole +1 thing). Belmar also rose to meet a cross in the dying moments but he sent his header way over the bar as well.
Sporting KC had their chances to get a result on the evening, but simply couldn’t capitalize. The magic and creativity they’ve produced in the final third all season were gone. Yohan Croizet disappointed after his breakout performance last week and SKC was not able to control the pace and play the match they wanted.
Still in first place in the Western Conference, Sporting comes home to take on the Rapids next Saturday at CMP.