FOXBOROUGH — Teal Bunbury had no choice but to be patient.
Entering Saturday night’s matchup against Sporting Kansas City, Bunbury had not scored a goal in 21 games dating to Aug. 1, 2012. The 24-year-old forward has a reconstructed anterior cruciate ligament to thank for that, an injury he suffered that August. His shredded knee sidelined him for nearly a year, with the road back to his original form taking even longer.
That patience paid off against Sporting — the team he helped guide to the MLS Cup title last fall.
Bunbury’s redirect in the second minute of stoppage time put a stop to New England’s 592-minute regular-season scoreless drought at the hands of Sporting. Three minutes later, Lee Nguyen converted his second penalty kick in as many games as the Revolution (3-3-2) clinched a 2-0 victory over one of the best teams in Major League Soccer.
“I think it was big for all of us,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said after his team moved into a four-way tie for second in the Eastern Conference. “I think it was a big moment. Coming off a red card last week [at Chicago], we felt we didn’t leave it all on the table to get the 3 points.”
The win was New England’s first over Kansas City in the regular season since April 23, 2011. Before Bunbury’s goal, the last regular-season goal against Sporting came July 30, 2011.
Both teams had limited chances through the first hour, but the dynamic changed late in regulation when Sporting defender Aurelien Collin was shown the tunnel with a 74th-minute red card.
The Revolution’s eagerness to take advantage of the extra man nearly cost them against Sporting (3-2-2), which dropped out of first in the East, a point behind Columbus. After a free kick in Sporting’s end, Benny Feilhaber and a trio of Kansas City players raced down field on a 4-on-2 breakout. The former Revolution midfielder drove into the penalty box and danced around a defender near the top of the goal box, but his bid to beat Bobby Shuttleworth at the near post hooked wide.
The game appeared destined for a scoreless draw until New England put together another strong push.
Diego Fagundez sent a cross through the box. The ball made its way past a diving Darrius Barnes and Sporting keeper Eric Kronberg before being bumped home by Bunbury.
“Definitely a lot of emotions, but most importantly, I’m just excited that we were able to get a win,” Bunbury said. “Our performance from the first minute to the last minute I thought was world-class. Everybody was fighting. It feels good to beat the former champs, it feels good to get my first goal, and that’s really what I’m happy about.”
The Revolution gained an insurance goal three minutes later when Sporting was called for a handball in the penalty box as Fagundez pressed for his first goal of the season. Nguyen tucked his penalty kick inside the left post to seal the victory.
In a match with limited scoring chances, New England’s Jerry Bengtson had the best through 90 minutes. Fourteen minutes into the first half, Bengtson was alone at the penalty spot with the ball at his feet, the recipient of a Nguyen volley over the Kansas City defense.
Bengtson worked to corral the ball as it came over his shoulder. As Kronberg came out to contest him, Bengtson made a bid for the far post. It trickled wide of the net.
New England’s depth — especially on the back line — shined as the Revolution earned their third home shutout in as many tries.