KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Looking to rebound from last weekend’s season-opening loss in San Jose, the New England Revolution returns to action on Saturday, March 17, when the club visits Eastern Conference foe Sporting Kansas City at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
Kickoff between the Revs (0-1-0, 0 pts.) and Sporting (1-0-0, 3 pts.) is set for 8:30 p.m. ET and the match will televised on Comcast SportsNet alternate channels throughout New England (click HERE for the channel listing in your area). The radio call will be available on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Current Form: Revs and SKC on opposite ends of 1-0 results on opening weekend
Despite limiting the San Jose Earthquakes to just one shot on target, the Revs struggled in possession en route to a 1-0 loss in last weekend’s season opener at Buck Shaw Stadium. San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski capitalized when he was sent on a breakaway by Shea Salinas, who pounced on a loose Shalrie Joseph pass near midfield.
“Obviously there were some positives that we have to take away, but more importantly there are some negatives we have to address,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. “I think being the first game and being what it was, we have some growing pains left and we’re going to address those as each game comes.”
Sporting Kansas City begins the 2012 season precisely where it ended the 2011 campaign: on top of the Eastern Conference. It took a dramatic stoppage-time winner from second-year forward C.J. Sapong for SKC to overcome D.C. United, but the 1-0 victory at RFK Stadium sent Peter Vermes’ side into first place after week one.
Past Meetings: Revs unbeaten in past three meetings with Kansas City
Only a last-gasp equalizer from Sporting KC forward Teal Bunbury prevented the Revolution from sweeping the season series in 2011. The Revs claimed a 3-2 win over SKC in last year’s first meeting on April 23 at Gillette Stadium – a match which marked Benny Feilhaber’s MLS debut – while Bunbury’s 89th-minute goal on July 30 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park meant the teams finished level at 1-1.
Last year’s results extended New England’s unbeaten run against Sporting KC to three games (2-0-1) following a 1-0 win over the then-Wizards in the final meeting of 2010. The current unbeaten run comes on the heels of a six-game winless streak (0-5-1) in the series from 2008-10.
Injury Report: Sène and Soares overcome injury concerns; Lozano set to miss out
Saer Sène (L knee swelling) could make his MLS debut on Saturday night after the French striker was upgraded to probable on Friday’s injury report, while A.J. Soares made a quick recovery from a right knee sprain and was removed from the list entirely. The news wasn’t as positive for Soares’ fellow center back John Lozano (R hip flexor strain), who will miss the trip to Kansas City along with Darrius Barnes (L calf strain), Zak Boggs (R ankle sprain) and Sainey Nyassi (R hamstring strain).
“We’re getting him looked at,” Heaps said of Lozano. “He pulled up in the (San Jose) game. He played strong and then after the game he said that he had a little tightness. We’re being precautionary with him and making sure that he gets enough time to heal it.”
Only backup goalkeeper Eric Kronberg (OUT – lower back injury) and central midfielder Paulo Nagamura (QUESTIONABLE – L calf strain) were listed on Sporting Kansas City’s injury report on Tuesday, but the Midwestern side will be missing one key piece this weekend. The aforementioned Bunbury will not be replicating his late heroics against the Revs as the young forward is in camp with the U.S. Under-23 National Team ahead of the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Key Player: Revolution central defender Stephen McCarthy
Injuries to Barnes and Lozano mean Stephen McCarthy is likely to earn his second straight start in central defense alongside Soares. After playing his entire rookie year in central midfield, McCarthy made his first-ever start at center back last weekend against San Jose and continued to progress after learning the position throughout preseason.
McCarthy could be tasked with helping shut down one of the league’s most potent attacks which features an athletic forward combination in Sapong and Kei Kamara.
“It’s a learning process but I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable,” said McCarthy, who battled rough-and-tumble Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart last weekend. “I think I’ve learned a lot in the past couple weeks. A.J.’s always helping me. John and Darrius, too. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.”
Final Thoughts: Improved possession key to generating attack and limiting SKC
“They’re going to be ready,” central midfielder Clyde Simms said of Sporting. “They don’t have that much turnover from last year and they finished at the top of the East last year. They’re very strong as a team.
“I think one of the things they do well is as soon as the ball turns over, their pressure is really, really good and they go as a team,” he added. “I think if we can beat that first wave of pressure and be good with the ball – better than we were in San Jose – we can be successful.”