Preview: Defending champs come to town for a playoff rematch on Saturday night
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A rematch of last year’s heated Eastern Conference Semifinal Series is on tap for Saturday night, when the New England Revolution will host Sporting Kansas City at Gillette Stadium.
Comcast SportsNet and 98.5 The Sports Hub will have coverage as the Revs welcome the defending MLS Cup champions to Foxborough. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., while CSN will lead into the game with a re-airing of the first edition of “State of the Revs” at 7 p.m.
Current Form: Revs aim to build off pair of good results; Sporting KC unbeaten in five
Bobby Shuttleworth’s late heroics helped the Revs (2-3-2, 8 pts.) return from the Windy City with a point in hand last weekend, as it was his stoppage-time penalty save which secured a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire. Now the Revs are focused on making that road result stand up with another strong performance at home, where they’ve yet to concede a goal in a pair of matches this season.
“We’ve talked about it all week; if we manage to take three (points) at home this weekend, that makes road points even better,” said Chris Tierney, who came off the bench to play the second half in Chicago. “Our focus is really our home form and the game at hand this weekend against Sporting.”
A win on Saturday night would pull the Revs level on points with Sporting KC (3-1-2, 11 pts.), which currently sits atop the Eastern Conference standings. After opening the season with a last-minute loss in Seattle, Sporting has gone unbeaten in its last five games (3-0-2), including a 4-0 romp over the Montreal Impact last weekend.
“This will be a big test for us because right now, KC’s one of the top teams in the league,” said Teal Bunbury, who spent the first four years of his career in Kansas City before being traded to the Revs in February. “It’s really going to be helpful to see where we put ourselves. Especially when our fans are there and it’s a home game; our mentality is that we don’t lose at home. That’s our mindset and I know the guys are going to be excited.”
Past Meetings: Revolution gets first crack at SKC since playoff exit last season
The last time Sporting KC visited Foxborough was for the first leg of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinal Series, a match the Revs won, 2-1, on the strength of goals from Andy Dorman and Kelyn Rowe. But Kansas City won by an identical score line in the second leg at Sporting Park to force extra time, where Claudio Bieler scored the deciding goal to win the series for SKC, 4-3 on aggregate.
While the Revs surely haven’t forgotten last year’s painful playoff exit, Tierney says the past will have little effect on the way things play out Saturday night in Foxborough.
“I don’t think that’s really on the back of our minds all too much, to be honest,” he said. “We’re a different team, it’s a different year, we have different expectations and goals for this year and I’m sure Sporting Kansas City does, as well. So our focus is on this specific game and I’m sure theirs is the same.”
While history matters little in this case, there is a lengthy regular-season scoreless run against Sporting KC which the Revs will be looking to snap this weekend. Rajko Lekic scored the Revolution’s last regular-season goal against Kansas City back in 2011, and since then the Revs have been shut out in five straight meetings.
Injury Report: Alston (suspension) and Goncalves (quad) unavailable; Rowe questionable
Captain and reigning MLS Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves looks set to miss his second straight game with a right quad strain, and he’ll be joined on the sidelines by fellow defender Kevin Alston, who’ll serve a one-game suspension after he was issued a straight red card late in last weekend’s draw with Chicago.
Andrew Farrell will likely continue to deputize for Goncalves in central defense, while Tierney could take over for the suspended Alston at left back. Tierney returned from a hip ailment to play 45 minutes in midfield last weekend at Toyota Park, and he says he’s ready to play a full 90 if required on Saturday night.
“I think I’m getting close to 100 percent,” Tierney said. “I’ll be ready to go this weekend if my name’s called.”
Rowe has missed the last four games with a left hamstring strain and he remains listed as questionable on the injury report as the Revs continue to take a cautious approach with his recovery.
Sporting KC defender Ike Opara will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing right ankle surgery, while midfielder Peterson Joseph (illness) and forward C.J. Sapong (neck strain) are also expected to miss this weekend’s match. Presumed starters Paulo Nagamura (left quad strain) and Aurelien Collin (left hamstring strain) are both listed as questionable.
Final Thoughts: Revs eager for the chance to test themselves against the league’s best
“You always get a little more psyched up for the game when you know you’re playing against the defending champs,” said Tierney. “They’ve proven to be one of the strongest teams in the league consistently over the last few years, so we know how tough of a test it’s going to be. Hopefully playing against a team like Sporting will bring all of our performances up a level and we’ll get a good result at home.”