Sporting Kansas 3-1 New England

Managers react and report

Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes

Vermes and his thoughts on the game…
“We came into this game with the idea that we were going to play. 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 and the ambition of the players. But their effort from the first to the last minute of the game and the way they managed the game was exactly what we talked about during the week leading up to this game. So I can’t say enough about the perseverance and their determination to make sure that they left here with a win and they did it in incredible fashion. And the last thing that I’ll say is that the crowd was absolutely incredible and the fans were unreal. It was amazing how the guys ran as long as they could, and so much of that has to do with the motivation of the fans and the way that they are behind the team.”

Vermes on the entertainment level that Sporting KC brings to MLS…

“If there’s one thing I stand behind, it’s our league and the way we play in this league. There’s an entertainment value that is extremely important to the success of this league, and if you watched tonight’s game, you don’t leave here and say you weren’t entertained. Our players managed the game extremely well in all the pieces of the game and on top of that they also entertained. It was an unbelievable environment and I’ve always said the interesting thing for me here at Sporting Park is that there’s a connection between the fans and the players and the players and the fans. And that is the thing that needs to be replicated all over this league for it to continue to grow. So from that perspective, our fitness is based solely around the fact that we want to play a high-tempo, entertaining style of game and when we’re given the chance to do that, it’s entertaining for not only the people watching live, but also the people watching on TV and everything else and our fitness is a huge part of that.”

New England Revolution defender A.J. Soares

Thoughts on the match…
“It was a fun game to play in. It was a fun atmosphere. Both legs were awesome and it was great to be a part of it. Obviously, we are disappointed that we lost. I thought we did enough to win. We played really well over both legs. We had little spots where we were excellent and they had spots where they were excellent. It was a good battle. We went back and forth and at the end of the day, they came out with it. So I’m just really proud of the guys. The work rate, the commitment to winning over the last couple months has been phenomenal. It was a great team to be a part of and I’m really proud of the guys.”

Sporting Kansas City advanced to the Eastern Conference Championship with a 3-1 win after extra time against the New England Revolution at Sporting Park on Wednesday in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Claudio Bieler’s goal in the 113th minute of the second extra time period gave Sporting Kansas City the 4-3 advantage on aggregate following goals from Aurelien Collin and Seth Sinovic in regulation.

Entering Wednesday’s match behind 2-1 on aggregate, Sporting Kansas City attacked from the opening whistle with Benny Feilhaber and C.J. Sapong combining in the game’s early minutes. A give-and-go between the two allowed for Sapong to launch a right-footed shot from 25 yards out that went narrowly wide in the third minute. Less than a minute later, Feilhaber’s free kick found Sapong but his header was saved by Reis.

New England attempted their first of two shots in the half in the seventh minute as Juan Agudelo’s shot deflected off Matt Besler and carried over the crossbar. The Revolution’s only other offensive opportunity came in the 45th minute when Kelyn Rowe hit his shot wide off a set piece.

Sporting Kansas City’s chances continued to mount in a first half that saw the home side control 72 percent of the possession. Feilhaber’s first-time volley went high of frame in the 11th minute and Reis made a superb one-handed save to deny Dom Dwyer on a header in the 17th minute.

Manager Peter Vermes’ side continued to threaten with crosses into the box and in the 33rd minute it was Graham Zusi finding Sapong. The third-year striker, who has started all seven of the team’s postseason games in his three MLS season, directed his header on frame but right at Reis.

With four minutes remaining in the first half, Sporting Kansas City broke through to take a 1-0 lead and level the aggregate series at 2-2. Aurelien Collin was positioned inside the penalty area and was the first to react to the flick from Dwyer. Collin pounced on the deflection off Andrew Farrell and buried his left-footed strike off the inside of the post for his second straight postseason game with a goal.

Dwyer, making his first playoff start, remained active on both sides of the halftime break. In the 43rd minute, Dwyer’s header off a Chance Myers’ cross went just wide of the post. In the 46th minute, his give-and-go with Paulo Nagamura nearly gave Sporting KC the coveted two-goal lead. Dwyer played the ball into the right channel ahead of Nagamura and immediately darted inside the box to receive the ball back for a first-time shot saved by Reis.

The veteran goalkeeper, who entered Wednesday 8-0-4 in his 12 MLS starts in 2013, came up with an outstanding two-save sequence in the 55th minute. Myers’ cross from the flank was met by Dwyer at the near post and Reis reacted well to turn the header away, only to then sprawl full length to deny Feilhaber’s follow-up.

The play proved pivotal as the game’s next shot would pull New England back ahead in the semifinal series. Agudelo was brought down by Besler along the right touchline and Rowe’s ensuing free kick was whipped to the top of the six-yard box where Dimitry Imbongo was stationed for an acrobatic side volley that caromed off Jimmy Nielsen and into the net in the 70th minute.

On the brink of postseason elimination, Sporting Kansas City responded in the 79th minute through Sinovic — a Leawood, Kan. native and former Revolution defender. Collin began the play with his service some 65 yards from goal, flicked forward by Zusi and smashed into the side netting with a first time finish off his left foot. Sinovic now has two goals in his MLS career, both coming in back-to-back home playoff matches in the last two years.

New England made the most of their opportunities on the counter, coming close to delivering a dagger in the 85th minute. Diego Fagundez, 18, dribbled with pace on the break and struck a shot from 25 yards that skimmed off the top-side of the crossbar.

The back-and-forth action continued until the final moments of regulation, including a Nagamura last-ditch effort that rolled inches past the post in the third minute of stoppage time.

The first 15-minute extra time period was dominated by Sporting Kansas City as the team’s defense held New England without a shot. On the opposite end of the field, Sporting KC fired six times in the stanza and none were closer than Feilhaber’s half-volley from 30 yards out in the final minute before switching sides.

In the 109th minute, New England nearly sealed the series on an individual effort from Agudelo. Receiving a pass from Lee Nguyen, the Stoke City-bound playmaker slipped past Besler and went one-on-one with Nielsen only to be thwarted with a foot save to keep the aggregate even with 10 minutes to go.

The home crowd of more than 19,000 erupted in the 113th minute as Bieler, a second-half substitute, scored the biggest of his 11 goals on the season. Feilhaber, who played each of the last two seasons in New England, set up the Designated Player with a well-earned assist after intercepting Reis’ distribution and dribbling inside the edge of the penalty area before picking out Bieler with a well-weighted pass. The Argentine calmly slotted his shot by Reis for the decisive goal to extend Sporting Kansas City’s postseason.