Sporting Fights Back in 4-4 Thriller with New England
Sporting Kansas City twice battled from two goals down to rescue a dramatic draw in a 4-4 thriller against the New England Revolution on Saturday night at Children's Mercy Park.
A breathless battle filled with flashbulb moments saw Krisztian Nemeth and Felipe Gutierrez bag two goals each, helping Sporting (2-2-4, 10 points) extend their home unbeaten run to 10 regular season matches. The Revolution (2-6-2, 8 points) held leads of 3-1 and 4-2, receiving a Juan Fernando Caicedo brace and additional strikes from Juan Agudelo and DeJuan Jones, but the visitors were reduced to nine men in the late stages and succumbed to a ceaseless wave of Sporting pressure as both sides emerged with a point.
Saturday's 4-4 stalemate was tied for the highest-scoring competitive match in the nine-year history of Children's Mercy Park and lifted Sporting's goal total to 19 on the season, second-most in MLS.
A rash of injuries prompted Sporting Manager Peter Vermes to make three lineup changes from last weekend's road loss to San Jose. Two of which came in central defense, as 22-year-old Rwandan Abdul Rwatubyaye earned his first MLS start alongside Spaniard Andreu Fontas, who missed the Earthquakes clash with a calf ailment. With Matt Besler out nursing a hamstring injury, fellow veteran Graham Zusi donned the captain's armband.
Further up the field, Kelyn Rowe landed a starting nod against his former club as part of a midfield triumvirate that also featured 16-year-old Gianluca Busio and the deep-lying Felipe Gutierrez. Illness prevented midfielder Ilie Sanchez from starting his 67th consecutive match for Sporting in all competitions, a streak that began in August 2017.
Caicedo opened the scoring less than a minute after wasting a golden chance off DeJuan Jones' low delivery into the box. The Colombian atoned for the miss in the 18th minute, settling Agudelo's pass and swiveling with his back to goal before picking out the near post from seven yards to open his MLS scoring account.
Facing his former club, Nemeth went close on two occasions near the half-hour mark. The Hungarian headed high off Johnny Russell's service in the 21st minute and dragged a shot inches wide of the near post after Gerso did well to beat his defender and find his teammate with a pocket of space in the penalty area.
Nemeth was undeterred, however, and his persistence paid off in the 33rd minute when he latched onto a brilliant Zusi cross and snapped a header past goalkeeper Cody Cropper for his team-best ninth goal of the season in all competitions and his fifth in MLS. Zusi tallied his second assist in three games on the play, pushing his career regular season total to 65.
Sporting thought they had seized momentum with Nemeth's equalizer, but New England landed two counter punches prior to halftime. Caicedo ran onto Tajon Buchanan's pinpoint cross and finished from close range to secure his brace in the 35th minute, marking the fifth time in six matches that Sporting has conceded multiple goals.
Buchanan also created New England's third of the night in the 43rd minute. The rookie raced down the right channel and whipped in a ball that evaded Caicedo and reached Agudelo, who poked home on the doorstep for his first goal of the campaign and the 44th of his MLS career.
The game's complexion changed drastically 10 minutes into the second stanza when Gerso, making his 50th career regular season start, was hauled down by Brandon Bye on the breakaway. Bye was issued a straight red card as the last defender, reducing New England to 10 men and effectively swaying the momentum of the match. Sporting quickly translated their numerical advantage into dominance, threatening in the 57th minute when Nemeth nodded wide after Ilie cushioned Russell's corner back across the face of goal.
Gerso had drawn Bye's red card and won Sporting a penalty kick on the hour mark, toppling to the turf when Buchanan gave him a tug inside the box. Referee Baldomero Toledo pointed the the spot and Gutierrez made no mistake on the ensuing attempt. Cropper got a hand to the Chilean's effort, but the seething power behind the strike carried the ball into the roof of the net for his second successful penalty in as many matches.
New England were on the back foot but responded positively in the 64th minute, earning a penalty of their own when Russell-after Toledo consulted his VAR in a video review-was deemed to have committed a handball infraction. Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia saved Carles Gil's spot kick, but rookie DeJuan Jones was quickest to react and tucked the rebound into the corner for his first career MLS tally.
Sporting cut the deficit back to one in the 70th minute. Ilie, who had entered as a halftime substitute, steered a powerful header into the box that Nemeth laid neatly into the path of Gutierrez. The midfielder prodded low past Cropper from six yards for his second of the night, recording his first brace since March 2018.
The final 20 minutes unfolded in pulsating fashion, typified by a wild sequence that saw Cropper produce a double save to deny Nemeth and Gerso from point-blank range. Gerso was injured on the play and was forced to exit, paving the way for Daniel Salloi's introduction.
Nemeth buried his second of the evening in the 83rd minute, rising above the rest to head Russell's delicious corner kick beyond Cropper, level the score at 4-4 and ignite fervent celebrations inside the stadium. The equalizer made Nemeth the first Sporting player ever to hit 10 goals in a single season before the month of May.
The Revolution defended desperately in the dying embers and had another player sent off on 89 minutes when Jalil Anibaba, who played for Sporting in 2015, received his second yellow card. Sporting's late-game barrage on the New England goal did not produce a winner, however, and the teams would share the spoils after a nail-biting spell of second-half stoppage time.
Sporting returns to Children's Mercy Park next Sunday, May 5, to host reigning MLS champion Atlanta United FC on Retro Night. Tickets for the highly anticipated matchup, slated for 8 p.m. CT, are available at SeatGeek.com as Sporting turns back the clocks with a comprehensive throwback experience for fans in attendance.
QUOTES Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes
Thoughts on the match...
If it was anything, it was an entertaining game for people who were watching it and in the stadium. Giving up that many goals was not a good thing for us. I'm proud of the fact that we found a way to get back into it. We were close there at the end, we almost stole it. It was a crazy game.
On the team coming from behind to earn a point...
I give the guys a lot of credit for that piece and that part is good. We just can't give up the goals. I don't like the fact that we gave up the goals and that part has got to stop. We found a way to fight back. I do think the guys left their hearts on the field. If there's one thing the fans can appreciate, it's that.
Sporting Kansas City forward Krisztian Nemeth
Thoughts on the match...
We just never gave up. That's the thing. We knew were going to have chances, especially after the red card. We had to push it and keep scoring. It was a disappointing first half for sure. We have to be better, but the second half showed some corrections so I'm proud of the team.
On his two goals...
This game was difficult to find spaces so I was just waiting for the crosses. I got two good balls and I finished them. The second one I had luck that the guy touched it.
On the team's focus moving forward...
We have to start winning and that's it. That's the most important. At home, we have to take the three points. It's as simple as that.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Kelyn Rowe
On Saturday's 4-4 draw...
For the viewership, I bet it was amazing. Eight goals is incredible. For us it's not good enough. We know that we want to win every home game, and going down 3-1, it's obviously very good for us to come back. That was an amazing comeback from the guys, and I'm very proud of them in that sense, but everyone's going to feel a little hard-done by the fact that we were in that position in the first place. I think we could have won it. There's a lot of positives to take from it-we created a lot of chances and we put away a good amount. We've just got to make sure we come back and put away a full 90-minute game because we're better than this, and we know it.
On playing against his former club...
I've played with them for a long time, so it was a little weird to play against them. I thought I did well and I was glad I could show I belong with this new team. It's just not the result we wanted.
On how Sporting can improve...
Play a full 90 minutes. There were a few errors that we've got to clean up-from scoring goals up top to the midfield making sure we're winning balls to the defense making sure we've got those runs in behind covered. We've got to look at the tape, see what's wrong and fix the (mistakes). This home stretch is great for us. We want to win every home game, and it's an advantage for us playing here. We've got to look at the film and do better.
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Felipe Gutierrez
On Saturday's 4-4 draw...
I want to talk about our performance today, I don't want to talk about (the drama). I don't think it was our best game in the first half. We didn't play really well, and we were not concentrating on small things. That's why they scored three goals in the first half. In the second half we did better work with our pressing and our playing. The goals were coming and we finished 4-4. It was a good result in that way, but I think we can play much better than we did today.
On scoring two goals in the second half...
I know I needed to score these goals. It was important for the result in the end. Luckily I could score, and it was good for our team.
New England Revolution head coach Brad Friedel
Thoughts on the match...
I'm disappointed that we didn't take all three points. I thought our players played outstanding. I really do. When it was 11v11, I think Sporting Kansas City was finding it very difficult to break us down. I thought Tajon (Buchanan), Juan Fernando Caicedo, Juan Agudelo and DeJuan (Jones) were causing all sorts of problems for their back four. I'm not going to sit up here and say excuses because the boys put in an incredible effort being down two men, but Mr. Toledo really needs to have a review of that game. Carles (Gil) is fouled before they go down and get the penalty. I'm not sure theirs is a penalty. I think he got our penalty correct. There were so many instances in the game that incensed both Peter (Vermes) and myself to be honest with you. It was a strange one. I'm not saying it was a simple one to ref. But I'm sure just like we do as coaches -- we'll go and analyze ourselves and self reflect - that might be something he needs to do for that one. I'm really proud of the players for at least coming away with a point. They really showed a great response from our performance on Wednesday.
On the team's attack on Saturday...
We were finding the gaps that they gave us. I think they were finding it very difficult to defend balls in behind their back four. When you have players with pace that are willing to do the running, it can cause problems for any defense. We've spoken about our lack of goals for a long time. In most games - take the Montreal game aside - we have created chances. It was really nice to see some of the chances fall in tonight.
On the play of Tajon Buchanan...
It was an interesting one. We only had two days to prepare for the game. Antonio Delamea was penciled in to start and Brandon Bye was going to play where Tajon was. Antonio got a concussion in training on Friday so we had to shuffle things up. We really felt that with them playing (Yohan) Croizet as a left back, that's not his natural position. He's a very, very talented player and very good on the ball, but left back is not his normal position. We thought the pace and stamina of DeJuan (Jones) would really cause them problems. Thankfully, we were right.
On the team's change in tactics...
When we played Sporting Kansas City last year, they had a lot of possession but like 80% of their possession was in their half of the field. I'm not too worried about possession stats as far as bulk. It's where it is on the field that I would worry about. We were hoping that if we sucked them in a little bit, there's a lot of space behind (Andreu) Fontas and Abdul and (Yohan) Croizet and (Graham) Zusi. And there was. I think our attacks were quick and they were decisive and they were effective while it was 11v11.
On the first career MLS goals for DeJuan Jones and Juan Fernando Caicedo...
DeJuan has been close, obviously. So has Juan Fernando. It was a shame Juan Fernando in preseason was injured. He's had sort of a stop-start beginning of the season. I thought today you started to see the reason that we signed him in the first place. He made a lot of forward runs. He holds the ball, he's strong. I'm sure it will do his confidence a world of good to score those goals.
On hanging on to secure a road result...
(It was) very important. Throughout the first half, it was very calm. The players were doing such a good job. I did not have a worry in the world. Even when we had a man sent off, I still felt pretty decent to be honest with you because of the way the game was panning out. To hang on, it is big to be honest with you. If they would have nicked one at the very end and we would have lost that, that would have been gut wrenching because I don't really think we would have deserved that.
New England Revolution defender Andrew Farrell
Thoughts on the match...
It was crazy. It's good to get the offense going. I think all of the boys put in a good shift. Going down two guys is tough. The boys put in a fight. Everybody that stepped on the field did well. We wanted to come out with the three points and we're disappointed we didn't but it's a good performance coming back from Wednesday.
On the team's tactical approach...
It was simplified. We went through different options to of where we could play against this team. One of our strengths was with Tajon (Buchanan) and DeJuan (Jones) and Juan Fernando (Caicedo) and Juan (Agudelo) and the attacking guys getting behind their backline, where obviously they have some injuries and guys playing out of position. I think that showed well. I think that game plan worked. That's why we got so much going forward.
On taking momentum from the road result...
We have a lot of guys who can perform and step up - a lot of young guys who stepped up today and a lot of guys who are leading. I think it was a great performance. Obviously, we wish we got the three points especially since we were winning most of the game. That's tough but going forward this brings confidence for a lot of the guys.
New England Revolution forward Juan Agudelo
On finding a spark to score four goals...
Just being resilient and understanding - I thought we had a good game plan going in - understanding their defenses. There was going to be gaps with having the guys they pushed forward. We were able to score some goals that way.
On playing down two men...
For me, it felt like a real effort from everybody on the team. We had each other's backs for the ups and downs. The highs, we had each other's backs. The lows, we had each other's backs. Everybody played like a team today. Down two men, we were able to pick up a point.
On today's result and the team's mentality...
It means a lot going forward. Understanding that that is how we have to play every single game. Having our players backs when they lose the ball - don't put your head down. That's what I saw a lot today. People were willing to get their brothers' backs.
On the play of Juan Fernando Caicedo and DeJuan Jones...
They've all worked hard for their opportunities. Juan's come here and he understands places where you score goals. On two goals, he was able to be in those positions. We need that. To be right in front of the six, if something were to pop there and he was. DeJuan himself didn't give up on the PK. We needed it. I went for the rebound and so did he, so it just shows the resilience there and he was able to put it away.
On taking momentum into the next two road matches...
(We need to) understand the feeling that every single player had while the game was going on and doing the same exact thing every single game.
On the play of Tajon Buchanan...
He's a crafty player one-on-one and he showed his skill there. He was able to get a cross off with his weak foot. Luckily, I was there. Overall, it was a tough game for him to come into and I thought he handled it very well. It's not an easy place to get your first start. I'm happy for him.
On the twists and turns in the game...
I was actually thinking, 'Wow, if you were to watch highlights of this game you would have to scroll a lot on your phone.'
On the change in tactics for the match...
I wish we did this more in other games. The movement that we had once we had the ball opened up a lot of gaps. That's what it is. Juan made moves that opened up space for me. I made movements that opened up space for wide guys. The wide guys made movements to open up space for everybody else.
On the team's growth...
I think even without the result - just the way we felt, the way we played, the way we recognized what was necessary, what was expected of one another, and we held each other accountable, in situations we picked each other up. That's what I mean by a team and we should do that every time.
2019 MLS Regular Season
Game 8 of 34
Children's Mercy Park | Kansas City, Kansas
Weather: 48 degrees and sunny
Score 1 2 F
Sporting Kansas City (2-2-4, 10 points) 1 3 4
New England Revolution (2-6-2, 8 points) 3 1 4
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi (C), Abdul Rwatubyaye (Nicolas Hasler 90+1'), Andreu Fontas, Yohan Croizet; Felipe Gutierrez, Gianluca Busio (Ilie Sanchez 46'), Kelyn Rowe; Johnny Russell, Krisztian Nemeth, Gerso Fernandes (Daniel Salloi 75')
Subs Not Used: Eric Dick, Botond Barath, Seth Sinovic, Gedion Zelalem
New England Revolution: Cody Cropper; Andrew Farrell, Jalil Anibaba, Edgar Castillo, Brandon Bye; Tajon Buchanan (Teal Bunbury 76'), Scott Caldwell (C); DeJuan Jones (Brian Wright 88'), Carles Gil, Juan Agudelo; Juan Fernando Caicedo (Luis Caicedo 65')
Subs Not Used: Matt Turner, Diego Fagundez, Wilfried Zahibo, Cristian Penilla
NE -- Juan Fernando Caicedo 1 (Juan Agudelo 1, Scott Caldwell 1) 18'
SKC -- Krisztian Nemeth 5 (Graham Zusi 2, Kelyn Rowe 1) 33'
NE -- Juan Fernando Caicedo 2 (Tajon Buchanan 1) 35'
NE -- Juan Agudelo 1 (unassisted) 42'
SKC -- Felipe Gutierrez 3 (penalty kick) 60'
NE -- DeJuan Jones 1 (unassisted) 66'
SKC -- Felipe Gutierrez 4 (unassisted) 70'
SKC -- Krisztian Nemeth 6 (Johnny Russell 3) 83'
SKC -- Abdul Rwatubyaye (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 41'
NE -- Jalil Anibaba (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 43'
NE -- Brandon Bye (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 45+1'
NE -- Carles Gil (yellow card; dissent) 49'
NE -- Brandon Bye (red card/second yellow; unsporting behavior) 55'
SKC -- Krisztian Nemeth (yellow card; dissent) 67'
NE -- Edgar Castillo (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 84'
NE -- Jalil Anibaba (red card/second yellow; unsporting behavior) 89'
SKC -- Felipe Gutierrez (yellow card; unsporting behavior) 90+3'
NE -- Cody Cropper (yellow card; time wasting) 90+6'
Stat SKC NE
Shots 19 10
Shots on Goal 6 7
Saves 3 2
Fouls 14 16
Offsides 1 2
Corner Kicks 9 0
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Assistant Referee: Apolinar Mariscal
Assistant Referee: Jose Da Silva
Fourth Official: Fotis Bazakos
VAR: Daniel Radford
AVAR: Kevin Klinger
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