New England goalkeeper Matt Reis compared Saturday’s Eastern Conference semifinal match to chess with both sides trying to find some form of advantage.
At the final whistle, the Revs accumulated a slight edge on the scoreboard, but Sporting managed to place itself in a position to turn things around on home soil with Aurélien Collin’s goal. The extra goal (a benefit Sporting did not have last year) could make all the difference, coach Peter Vermes said.
“It’s huge because then you’re pressing at home to trying to get that second goal,” Vermes said. “We’ve been in that situation before. It’s a lot more difficult. To be able to get that one, it puts everybody in a different area. It’s going to be a game. Somebody asked us how we’re going to play. I said, are you kidding me? Do you ever see us play any other way at our place?”
• Vermes omitted Designated Player Claudio Bieler from his 18-man squad for the playoff opener. Bieler scored 10 goals in 28 appearances during the regular season, but he suffered a groin injury in September to exacerbate concerns about his form and slipped down the pecking order upon his return to the reckoning. He made just one appearance (a 12-minute cameo in the 1-0 victory over D.C. United on Oct. 18) in the final four matches of the season.
• The compressed playoff schedule prompted Sporting to book a charter flight to transport the travel party for the first leg. Sporting departed the Kansas City area after training on Friday afternoon and landed in suburban Boston on Friday night. The club planned to depart shortly after the game concluded Saturday to facilitate the preparations for the second leg at Sporting Park on Wednesday.