He didn’t even make the traveling squad for Saturday’s first leg in Foxborough, but after 113 minutes on Wednesday, Claudio Beiler made his impact on the series. Beating Matt Reis with a one-timer from 12 yards out, the Argentine Designated Player put Sporting Kansas City into the Eastern Conference final, their 3-1, extra time win over New England allowing them to advance on aggregate, 4-3.
Bieler’s goal came after an ill-advised throw from Reis was intercepted along Sporting’s right by Benny Feilhaber, the former U.S. international carrying the ball deep down the flank for rolling a cross toward the penalty spot. With the defense still reacting to the unexpected turnover, Bieler was unmarked in front of goal, his right-footed finish into the left of the net giving Reis no chance to make up for his game-changing error.
Kansas City had reached halftime on the back of goals from two defenders, with Aurélien Collin opening the scoring in the 42nd minute. After Dimitry Imbongo’s second half goal had reclaimed New England’s lead before Seth Sinovic scored in the 79th minute, setting the stage for Bieler’s extra time winner.
The win puts Sporting in their second conference final in three years. There they will meet the Houston Dynamo, a team that has become their nemesis. Dom Kinnear’s side has seen Sporting out of the last two playoffs, and with their win tonight, the Dynamo will face Kansas City for a chance to play in a third straight MLS Cup final.
Kansas City generated the match’s first good chance in the 17th minute with a cross from Sinovic attacking the right post. A nice run from wide from C.J. Sapong drew both right back Darius Barnes and central defender Jose Goncalves, allowing Dom Dwyer to fan out into space. The KC striker’s header from eight yards out went down toward Reis’s line, but a quick reaction from the Revolution keeper saw the veteran to make a diving save.
Sapong’s influence would be felt throughout the half, losing Barnes on a 33rd minute corner headed into Reis’s hands before playing a part in the opening goal. In the 41st minute, a cross from the right from Chance Myers targeted Sapong in the middle of the box. The chaos he caused saw the ball fly over challenging defenders and onto the thigh of an unsuspecting Andrew Farrell. When the resulting ball fell to Collin, the Kansas City defender had his second goal of the series.
It was culmination of Kansas City’s dominant half, one that rarely allowed New England possession in their attacking half. Sporting outshot their visitors 11-2 over the first 45 minutes, putting four shots on target without allowing the Revolution to test Jimmy Nielsen. They had 72 percent of the half’s possession while limiting New England to 58 percent passing.
Moments after the second half’s kickoff, Sporting nearly doubled their lead, with a movement down the right flank creating a chance for Dwyer near the spot. Reis would swallow that chance and also deny the English forward 10 minutes later, when his header starting a two-chance sequence that ended with a diving save on Feilhaber.
By that time, however, New England had asserted more control of the match. The introduction of defensive midfielder Scott Caldwell (at Andy Dorman’s expense) helped the Revolution create more turnovers in the middle of the park, while improved play higher up the pitch mean New England had started to generate chances.
Their efforts paid off in the 70th minute, with two Matt Besler mistakes helping the visitors regain their lead. The U.S. international had fouled Juan Agudelo along New England’s right ahead of a Kelyn Rowe restart – a cross to the edge of the six that saw Imbongo outmuscle Besler to volley home a go-ahead goal.
The Revolution’s 3-2 lead wouldn’t last long. Nine minutes later, shortly after Imbongo was subbed off, Sinovic beat Chad Barrett to a Graham Zusi flick. Although the Kansas City defender has never scored in the regular season, his finish bent the far side netting, pulled the home side even.
In the 85th minute, an aerial challenge lost by Collin left Besler exposed at the back, with Diego Fagundez bearing down. The Revolution attacker elected to shoot from just outside the penalty area, his right footed curler grazing the cross bar as it went out for a goal kick.
In extra time, with Sporting controlling play, the Revolution had another chance to secure the upset, with Juan Agedulo beating Besler to go in on goal in the 109th minute. A quick read allowed Nielsen to get off his line and cut off Agudelo’s options.
Four minutes later, Sporting Kansas City had their winner. After a poor outlet throw from Reis, Feilhaber intercepted the ball on the right. With a surprised defense collapsing toward the edge of their six-yard box, an unmarked Bieler had plenty of time to redirect the ball into the left side of goal, giving Kansas City a 4-3 lead.
Sporting Park’s explosion at Matt Grieger’s final whistle may as well have been a sight of relief, one that transcends the roller coast nature of their Eastern Conference semifinal. With much-discussed failures of the last two postseason brought back into focus by Saturday’s performance, Kansas City was not only had defeat the Revolution but also their recent history.
Thanks to Sinovic’s equalizer and Bieler’s winner, Kansas City get another chance to put their recent past behind them. A conference final against Houston gives them a chance at redemption.
Sporting Kansas City: 41′ Aurélien Collin, 79′ Seth Sinovic, 113′ Claudio Bieler
New England Revolution: 70′ Dmitry Imbongo
Sporting Kansas City: Jimmy Nielsen; Chance Myers, Aurélien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Oriel Rosell, Paolo Nagamura (97′ Soony Saad); Benny Feilhaber (115′ Ike Opara); Graham Zusi, C.J. Sapong, Dom Dwyer (84′ Claudio Bieler)
Unused subs: Eric Kronberg, Jacob Petersen, Teal Bunbury, Mechak Jerome
New England Revolution: Matt Reis ; Andrew Farrell, A.J. Soares, Jose Goncalves, Darius Barnes (115; Jerry Bengtson); Andy Dorman (46′ Scott Caldwell); Dimitry Imbongo (78′ Chad Barrett), Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez; Juan Agudelo
Unused subs: Clyde Simms, Bobby Stuttleworth, Stephen McCarthy, Donald Smith