Unlike the Chicago Fire last week, the New England Revolution weren’t content to pack numbers behind the ball and waste 90 minutes Saturday against Sporting Kansas City in its home opener at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Still, the result was identical, a 0-0 draw, thanks mostly to an uncooperative Mother Nature.
“The weather was horrible and it was a miserable environment to play a game in, but the guys did an excellent job to get out of here with a shutout and a point,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said by phone.
Temperatures hovered in the upper 30s during the game, but sustained 20 mph winds made precision passing and any semblance of a buildup challenging, if not impossible.
“The wind was the No. 1 factor in the game,” said midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who was traded from New England to Sporting KC in December. “It was hard to play too much with that wind and obviously the turf was a little bit tough too. Both teams ended up basically playing a field-position game — almost like it was football — putting it in one end, trying to press and seeing what comes of it.”
Without its rock — midfielder Graham Zusi, who is playing with the U.S. men’s national team — Sporting KC’s attack never established any rhythm.
The Revolution, 1-1-1, won more duels and owned a 55-45 edge in possession.
And while Sporting KC, 1-1-2, outshot New England 13-3, most of those chances, including the game’s only five shots on goal, were from distance and didn’t trouble Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis.
“Obviously, we missed the guys who were gone, but the other guys did well,” Vermes said. “This was just not any condition to play soccer with the weather and the field.”
The good news is that Sporting KC’s defense — which was without starting centerback Matt Besler, who also is on the U.S. men’s World Cup qualifying roster, and starting right back Chance Myers, who has a nagging quad strain — didn’t concede much of anything.
Ike Opara, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the San Jose Earthquakes, had a few shaky moments early, but put together a steady performance in his first start with Sporting KC.
Meanwhile, Mechack Jerome, who was signed off Orlando City SC’s roster a few days before the season, was rock solid again as Myers’ replacement.
“The guys did an excellent job not to give anything away,” Vermes said. “I asked them before the game to concentrate and stay focused for 90-plus minutes. We had to play every roll of the ball today because of the environment, and the guys were locked in.”
Sporting KC nearly grabbed the lead in the 73rd minute when forward Claudio Bieler slipped behind the Revolution defense on a quickly taken, long restart similar to the sequence he scored on late at Toronto FC.
Bieler tried to chip a shot over Reis’ head, but the cagey New England veteran snuffed the opportunity.
“That was a great diagonal ball into space by Mechack,” Vermes said. “We created a few small chances here and there, so I still say the commitment from the boys was fantastic in some challenging circumstances.”
Playing into a strong headwind in the first half, Sporting KC created the best goal-scoring chances, including a shot that pinged off the New England crossbar in the 19th minute.
It started with a long throw-in from Seth Sinovic.
The ball pin-balled around the box off center backs Aurelien Collin and Opara before settling at forward C.J. Sapong’s right foot for a blast that took a deflection and clanged off the pipes.
Feilhaber corralled the rebound, but he wasn’t able to get much power behind a shot that Reis gobbled up with ease.
The best chance for the Revolution, who weren’t credited with any first-half shots, came in the 23rd minute off a corner kick from midfielder Lee Nguyen.
He tried to pick out forward Chad Barrett — who started in place of Honduran international Jerry Bengston — toward the back post, but Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen nicked the ball away from danger.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.