The Full 90

November 7, 2013

The numbers behind Sporting KC's thrilling win over New England

With a 4-3 aggregate victory over the New England Revolution, Sporting KC will face the Houston Dynamo (for the third time in three years) with a chance to host the MLS Cup on Dec. 7 hanging in the balance.

The Full 90

Covering Sporting Kansas City and soccer throughout the Midwest and the world

What else did you expect from this Sporting KC team?

All season long, this team has shown flashes of absolute brilliance (

here , here , here and here

.) But also moments of utter frustration (I won't make you relive them, but you a ll remember the match against New York in August and of course the offensive stumbles against Real Esteli, Philadelphia and D.C. United down the stretch).

So, of course, they packed both into one game and left it until extra time at home with the season on the line to deliver exactly the result necessary to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Houston Dynamo.

I hope you've sufficiently recovered from the madness of last night. Because, there's not a whole lot of time to celebrate the 4-3 aggregate victory (including last night's 3-1 win the second leg of the two-game series). The turnaround is wicked. On Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (on NBC), Kansas City will face off against its playoff nemesis in Houston. The second leg will take a strange two-week pause and resume at Sporting Park on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 6:30 p.m. (on NBC Sports Network).

But first, a few leftover thoughts from last night's game before we move on to the previewing the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday and Saturday.

If you didn't read Sam Mellinger's take — basically, this is Sporting KC's time and the run cannot end with this match — you should really change that.

Check it out here.

Are you ready for the statistical avalanche? Here it comes.

Kansas City took 32 shots (10 on target), controlled 64% of possession, completed 670 passes (at an 84% clip), smashed 39 open-field crosses, won 58% of the 50/50s and won 62% of the aerial duels. The advanced defensive stats are also impressive: 109 recoveries* (including 14 from Benny Feilhaber!) and 45 interceptions.

*To give you a baseline for how ridiculous that is, I pulled the recovery numbers from two other bigs wins — 2-0 against Montreal in March and 2-1 in Salt Lake in July. Kansas City had 128 recoveries combined. Of course, KC had an extra 30 minutes last night, but that's still a lot of recoveries. (A recovery, by the way, is number of times a team recovered possession back via a tackle, interception or clearance.)

The match summary

perhaps summed up that statistical avalanche best: New England — Team showed no significant strengths; Kansas City — Team showed no significant weaknesses. also handed out five ratings of 8.6 (out of 10) or higher to Sporting KC players. Aurelien Collin (9.3)*, Graham Zusi (9.1), Feilhaber (9.0), Oriol Rosell (8.6) and Seth Sinovic (8.6).

*Why so high for Collin? Well, besides his goal, he completed 92% of his passes, won 83% of his aerial duels, had 125 touches, committed only 2 fouls AND recorded an astonishing 15 clearances and 12 recoveries.

The line on Feilhaber (my pick for man of the match): 70 successful passes (87%), 6 key passes (passes or attempted shots that lead to goal-scoring chances), 14 recoveries, the game-winning assist and zero turnovers.

He didn't just get the assist on the game-winning goal. He was its architect.

He reads Matt Reis' eyes (like a safety in American football), jumps in front of Diego Fagundez, intercepts the pass, drives down the field and picks out EXACTLY the right man with that pass. You want to know why KC went out and paid for Feilhaber? There you go. (Now, why he hasn't been playing the last month is an interesting question.)

We'll save the discussion about Claudio Bieler and Paulo Nagamura — and whether they'll feature in Saturday's lineup — for the previews. Both have been maligned in certain parts of the Sporting KC universe, but both showed up and did what they are paid to do against New England.

In the playoffs, a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation kicks in with a second yellow. Going into last night's game three Sporting KC regulars (Rosell, Sinovic and Collin — remember, three of KC's best players last night) played 120 minutes of soccer without earning a second one. Chance Myers earned the team's only card. All four will be available for the first leg in Houston.

Lastly, let's all bask in the glory that was Sinovic's goal.

That clip begins, by the way, with Sinovic getting cleared out by Juan Agudelo in his own half. He then recovers do to that.

By the way, Sinovic — one of two local products to start last night — has zero goals in 102 regular season starts in his MLS career. In the playoffs? He has two goals in seven appearances. The man is just clutch.

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