Before Sporting Kansas City took the field, coach Peter Vermes told his team that the New England Revolution would play differently than two weeks ago.
In that game — a 0-0 tie in Kansas City — the Revolution formed a defensive shell and choked off Sporting KC’s attack. This time, though, Vermes accurately predicted an enhanced offensive from the Revolution.
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Maybe that wasn’t the best idea by the Revolution.
If this season has shown anything, it’s that Sporting KC is plenty comfortable away from home. And in that regard, Sporting KC continued that trend with a 1-0 win Saturday in New England.
Sporting KC is now tied with Houston for first place in the Eastern Conference after snapping a three-game MLS winless streak.
“We had an idea that they weren’t just going to sit back and bunker in like they did at home,” forward Teal Bunbury, who scored the only goal, said by phone. “We feel like a lot of teams that come play us at Livestrong Sporting Park just bunker in because I feel like sometimes they can’t play with us.
“Coming out here, we knew they were going to go after it, and we were able to capitalize on some chances.”
In the 20th minute, Bunbury flicked a bouncing ball over Stephen McCarthy, setting up a breakaway against Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis.
As Reis came out, Bunbury slickly buried a shot in the bottom of the goal, giving Sporting KC a 1-0 lead.
“It was opportunistic,” Vermes said. “With a bouncing ball, their defender made a mistake. He hesitated, and with Teal’s speed, that’s a wrong choice. It’s almost like his patent move. When he gets to the left side of the goal, he’s deadly.”
New England had chances, too, but couldn’t finish.
In the 35th minute, Benny Feilhaber crossed a ball to Dimitry Imbongo, who found himself alone in the box but sailed his shot over the goal. Other than that, Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen went mostly untested in the first half.
Imbongo also mishandled another suspense-inducing moment early in the second half. After Chris Tierney floated a perfectly placed cross into the box, Imbongo knocked the uncontested header over the goal.
Sporting defenders Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic quickly looked at each other, arms out, realizing the chance that almost was.
“In the second half they were putting pressure on us,” Bunbury said, “but we kept our line tight and defensively we were sharp and in the right positions.”
Starting midfielder Bobby Convey left the game in the sixth minute with a tweaked hamstring. Vermes said he didn’t know if Convey would be available for Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup final.