MLS Playoffs 2013, Revolution vs. Sporting: Know Thy Enemy, Eastern Conference Semi-Finals First Leg Edition

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

It's the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, and it's Revolution vs. Sporting. What will it take for the Revs to advance to the Conference Finals in their first playoff appearance since 2009?

Saturday night is Playoff Soccer Night in Foxboro for the first time in four years as the New England Revolution host Sporting Kansas City in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. New England hasn't had the best of luck against SKC in the past; in fact, the Revs haven't scored a goal against them since 2011.

None of that matters now, though, because something totally different is on the line. To get an idea of what to expect out of Kansas City in this match, we caught up with Ben Gartland from The Daily Wiz, SB Nation's Sporting KC blog. You can read the reverse feature over there.

TBM: Talk to me about what it meant to lose Kei Kamara. He was terrifying from the perspective of a Revs fan, because he seemed to score against them with relative ease, as evidenced by his performance against the Revs in the 3-0 win. Has he been adequately replaced in the offense, and if so, by whom?

BG: Losing Kei Kamara can be talked about in a two-fold sense. As a fan, it's really hard to lose one of the team's premier players who so obviously loved the team and loved the city. He was one of the most recognizable Sporting KC players and certainly a fan favorite over the past few years.

As a player, Sporting KC lost a winger who created a lot of offense on the wing and had a finishing touch. The replacement for Kamara has actually come from the midfield, moving Graham Zusi to the wing and making Benny Feilhaber the main focus in the midfield. Zusi is more of a service guy, getting the ball to the center forwards although he has been scoring lately...

TBM: I'm getting real antsy about this Dom Dwyer kid I keep seeing and hearing about. What are his strengths and weaknesses as a player, and how likely are we to see him on Saturday?

BG: Dom Dwyer has an attacking instinct and is a speedy option in the center for Sporting KC. He will attack the back line with a ferocity not seen in Claudio Bieler and can pressure the back line into making mistakes. His weakness is that sometimes he gets a little too excited and will over pursue a ball or will be less accurate on his shot.

As for whether we'll see him Saturday I can almost guarantee it. Bieler is in Vermes' doghouse for some reason and he's also still struggling with a groin injury. Dwyer in the next best option and will most likely start against the Revs.

TBM: Last time you and I spoke, you mentioned that KC has been particularly vulnerable to the counter this season. Did they figure out that weakness, or is that something the Revs should be looking at very closely?

BG: I wish Sporting had figured it out but if you look back to our 1-0 home loss to Philadelphia you can see that Sporting hasn't made too much progress on that front. If I'm Jay Heaps, I'm thinking that I should let my really good defense absorb the pressure from Sporting's 4-3-3 and then catch them off guard and get the ball up to Imbongo or maybe get it to Fagundez or Aguedelo on the wing and get them to move the ball forward and outnumber Sporting in their half.

I don't expect New England to attempt this in the first leg since you guys have enough offense to do well at home, but I could see them doing it in the second leg, especially if the Revs win the first match.

TBM: This is usually the question I save for an under-the-radar player or the guy you'd fear most for the Revs, but we asked those questions in the last two Q&As. Instead, I'll ask this: what will you be drinking on Saturday night?

BG: Probably start off the game with a Cherry Pepsi and then write the recap with some earl grey tea. Hooray for being 19.

TBM: Let's have your projected starting XI.

BG: Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Rosell, Nagamura, Feilhaber, Saad, Dwyer, Zusi

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