Philadelphia Union v Sporting Kansas City

MLS Playoff Preview: Sporting KC at New England Revolution

1 Comment
  • Kickoff from Gillette Stadium outside Boston is set for 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN
  • Saturday is the first of two legs in the aggregate goals series
  • The Revolution is playing its firsts playoff match since 2009
  • Sporting Kansas City was the league’s best road team this year, an 8-5-4 record, and also the best defensive team
  • Young scoring sensation Diego Fagundez, just 18, led the Revolution with 13 goals this year

In Saturday’s Eastern Conference semifinal opener, we have a textbook instance of a playoff newbie in terms of the current roster and team makeup (New England) against an old hand at this MLS playoff business.

New England, a team with so much MLS playoff success in the previous decade, is back into the post-season swing for the first time since 2009.

Meanwhile, not only has Sporting Kansas City made the playoffs for the third consecutive season, but Peter Vermes’ team delivered relatively strong post-season accounts the last two years. Sporting trounced Colorado in the 2011 conference semifinal before falling to Houston in a tight conference final.

And came the downfall from Houston again in 2012, although Vermes’ team was strong in the return leg in the Midwest, dominating the Dynamo at Sporting Park (out-shooting the visitors 20-3) but falling a goal short on aggregate.

So a big edge in playoff experience goes to the visitors Saturday, a team that certainly doesn’t mind playing on the road. Sporting KC’s 28 points earned away from home this year (an 8-5-3 record) was best in MLS by some distance.

Kansas City is also the league’s top defensive team, with just 30 goals allowed.

Plus, Sporting KC went undefeated in Group Stage of Champions League – in fact, only allowing two goals in four matches while advancing to next year’s quarterfinals – while adding even more “big-game” largesse to this year’s checklist of achievement. Mostly though, it’s that feeling of being close to accomplishing something special the last two years, taking hardy sides into the playoffs but coming up short, that is providing all the drive to this year’s post-season bid.

“We’ve got a good, core group of guys that have been through this the last three years,” Vermes said this week. “That gives us, not comparing us to anyone else in the league, that just gives us a much better foundation as we move through the playoffs.”

The “foundation” includes what is probably the top back five in the playoffs (back four plus goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, that is). Center back Matt Besler, a U.S. starter, provides the stabilizing arm alongside the more volatile side the duo, Frenchman Aurélien Collin. In fact, we talk so much about those two that we probably don’t spend enough time commenting on right back Chance Myers and left back Seth Sinovic, both of whom are tough one-on-one defenders who can contribute a little punch to the attack, too.

Sporting KC’s offense mostly goes through U.S. international Graham Zusi (pictured above), whose assist total was down this year (from 15 to 8), but who did drop a career-best in goals, with six. Zusi’s recent return from a minor fall injury setback was among the reasons Sporting Kansas City finished on a four-game undefeated streak. Vermes’ team also won six of its last eight matches – and that was all after Kei Kamara left for England in a summer transfer.

New England has a little momentum of its own, however. Jay Heaps’ team from outside Boston looked a bit dead in the Back Bay about a month ago, staring at a tough schedule of road games, in need of a bunch of points to punch its way into the post-season. Well, punch they did, gathering up huge road wins at Montreal and Columbus, in addition to a draw at Supporters Shield winners New York, all in the month of October.

source: Getty Images
New England’s Diego Fagundez, only 18 … but he just finished tied in league scoring with a team-leading 13 goals.

Heaps’ team clinched its playoff spot just last weekend, in fact, with that 1-0 win at Crew Stadium.

One of the great things about having New England back in the playoffs is another chance to see Diego Fagundez, the Revs’ 18-year-old scoring sensation. Fagundez, finished tied for fifth in league scoring – and imagine what he could have done had he been the Revs’ PK taker, as league scoring leaders so frequently are.

He usually lines up wide (left lately) in the Revs’ 4-1-4-1 arrangement.

At the other end of the experience spectrum is goalkeeper Matt Reis, who lost his place this year – a difficult year that included unfortunate family involvement in the Boston Marathon bombings. Reis got things together and will be big part of this playoff push. So will center back Jose Goncalves, one of the real finds of the Major League’s Soccer’s off-season.

Another intriguing figure in a team full of them is Juan Agudelo, a young U.S. international (a bit farther back in the pool) who shook off some late-season injury struggles to make the Revs’ last four starts. In fact, his first goal since Aug. 25 was the playoff clincher last weekend against Columbus. Agudelo has already signed to play for Stoke City in January.

(MORE on MLS playoffs: ProSoccerTalk’s post-season picks and predictions)

WATCH: Zlatan scores on Man Utd debut; Rooney gets two as Man United win big

Manchester United, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Photo credit: Manchester United / Twitter: @ManUtd)
Photo credit: Manchester United / Twitter: @ManUtd
Leave a comment

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is off and running for Manchester United.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The big Swede was fully expected to immediately provide a Zlatan-sized impact from the outset of his time in the Premier League, but four minutes into his Man United tenure? It was unthinkably quick, even by Zlatan’s otherworldly standards and expectations. Good to see the scissor-kick make an appearance so far in advance of the PL season, which kicks off two weeks from today.

As for the rest of Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils, seeing Wayne Rooney bag a second-half brace, just three minutes between goals, could well be the most welcome sign of all for the red half of Manchester. His positional deployment on this day? The no. 10 role, just behind Zlatan.

Man United went on to defeat Galatasaray by the final score of 5-2.

New video arrives showing Lloris injured before Eder’s EURO goal

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 10: Hugo Lloris of France dives in vain as Eder of Portugal scores the opening goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 Final match between Portugal and France at Stade de France on July 10, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
Leave a comment

At the risk of tooting my own horn, count me among the few who thought Hugo Lloris might’ve done a bit better on Eder‘s EURO winning goal.

It wasn’t a howler. But the French goalkeeper, one of the best in the world, seemed a tad slow to explode toward the right post when Eder let rip with a new legendary Portuguese shot.

[ MORE: Gameiro joins new club ]

It seems there’s good reason for this, as Lloris was injured just before the goal. Raphael Guerriero bent a gorgeous free kick off the cross bar, as you might remember, one that sent the goalkeeper clattering into the goal post.

This new video shows the Spurs goalkeeper favoring his right side or leg for the next minute, and that’s the leg he uses to drive his body low toward Eder’s bounding shot.

What do you think? Did it make a difference? Or was Eder’s shot plenty good on merit?

New England’s Davies reveals cancer fight, remission

New York Red Bulls v New England Revolution - Eastern Conference Final - Leg 2
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Leave a comment

New England Revolution forward Charlie Davies is in remission after being treated for liposarcoma this Spring.

The 30-year-old striker took some time off from the team this Spring, and revealed his battle on Saturday.

[ MORE: Gameiro joins new club ]

According to the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative, “Liposarcoma is a rare cancer of connective tissues that resemble fat cells under a microscope. It accounts for up to 18% of all soft tissue sarcomas. Liposarcoma can occur in almost any part of the body, but more than half of liposarcoma cases involve the thigh, and up to a third involve the abdominal cavity.”

Davies has had his fair share of obstacles to overcome, having been involved in a massive car accident in 2009 that lacerated his bladder, left bleeding on the brain and broke several bones.

He missed six months for then-club Sochaux, and struggled to regain the form that saw him score four goals in 17 caps for the USMNT. He enjoyed a renaissance last summer with 10 goals for the Revolution.

From a release:

“Today, New England Revolution forward Charlie Davies shared that earlier this spring he was diagnosed and treated for liposarcoma and that he is now in remission. It was important for Charlie to concentrate on his family and treatment during the past few weeks and the club honored his wish for privacy. The New England Revolution will continue to support him through full recovery and are looking forward to seeing him back out on the pitch. Any fans who wish to share support should tweet or tag messages to Charlie at @CharlieDavies9 or use the hashtag #CD9.”

All our best to CD9 and his family, who braved two children born three months premature.

Klopp says, “This is my team now”; Does Sturridge Dance (video)

PASADENA, CA - JULY 27:  Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp looks on prior to the start of the match against Chelsea during the 2016 International Champions Cup at Rose Bowl on July 27, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Make no mistake about it, Jurgen Klopp has his team at Anfield.

The Liverpool manager, 49, took over for Brendan Rodgers in January and made some encouraging strides given that he was left with players who weren’t all designed for his system.

[ MORE: Januzaj wants United exit ]

Enter Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum. Bring on Ragnar Klavan and Marko Grujic.

Enter Klopp’s squad, from Sky Sports:

“This is my squad now,” Klopp said. “After all the transfers…this time it is my team. There are probably no players here anymore I don’t want. There are no signings I didn’t want, we have not sold anyone I didn’t want to.”

“I’m not afraid of making decisions – it’s part of the job,” Klopp added. “I am happy with my team now – all I can say is we will be a challenger.

That “not sold anyone I didn’t want to” part sounds a bit like some sour grapes from Borussia Dortmund, where Klopp watched several of his best skip town.

On a lighter note, Klopp cut a rug for a group of young fans at Liverpool, and the Reds were good enough to film it for us.

“If you do it long enough, you can fly”. Head down for some classic, but ultimately very misleading, Klopp.