With Saturday night’s 2-1 win in the Eastern Conference semifinal first leg over Sporting Kansas City, the Revolution have put themselves in a strong position to advance in the MLS playoffs.
If they tie or win in Kansas City Wednesday night, they will advance to play the winner of the New York Red Bulls-Houston Dynamo series.
A one-goal loss would not send New England crashing out right away, though. If the Revolution and Sporting are tied in overall goals after 90 minutes, they would play two 15-minute halves of overtime. If neither team leads after that, they will move to a penalty shootout.
Kansas City’s regular-season record at home was 9-5-3, with the losses coming against Philadelphia, New York, Montreal, Portland, and Seattle. But in those 17 home games, Kansas City’s league-best defense allowed just 15 goals. Kansas City also finished the season on a 6-1-1 tear before losing to the Revolution in the postseason.
If New England can play the way it did in the second half Saturday, chances to score will come. The approach in the first half was almost too cautious. Goalkeeper Matt Reis acknowledged after the game that no one wanted to make a costly error.
“It’s just a tough game,” said Reis. “There is so much on the line and so much pressure. Nobody wants to make a mistake, so you need that little bit of a break. You need that little bit of luck.”
The defense also had trouble finding passing lanes to the midfield. Kansas City applied a lot of pressure high up the field, disrupting the Revolution’s back line and not allowing the midfield to get in any kind of rhythm.
“It’s really difficult to play against Kansas City,” said Revolution coach Jay Heaps. “They’ve got good pressure, they’re tactical in how they manage the game in terms of spacing, in terms of pressure and fouls, all the above.”
“It’s a big chess game,” Reis said. “We match up. We’re playing the same formations, we’re matching up out there.
“So there are a lot of little things we have to move around and change. We had a chance to come in [at halftime] and talk about it and go back out there and do the things that we talked about.”
Despite the poor first half, the Revolution stepped it up after halftime and travel to Kansas City with a one-goal advantage. Their opponent will throw pressure forward to try and score — especially late in the game — but Reis thinks the Revolution have a good shot.
“In this series, it’s like we’re at halftime,” said Reis. “So we are up, 2-1, at halftime and the more goals we have, the more pressure we can put on them.
“It’s going to be a tough task going in there and getting a result, but I like our chances.”