In their first mid-week road trip of the season, the New England Revolution handled travel and squad rotation about as poorly as possible, losing 4-2 to Sporting Kansas City in a match that showcased the visiting side's extreme lack of depth in defense. Juan Agudelo and Scott Caldwell got on the board for the Revs, but it was far from enough against a Sporting side so depleted it couldn't even field a full bench.
Agudelo opened the scoring for the Revolution in the 11th minute, but waited for the home side to put away four before replying with another. Krisztian Nemeth had two, while Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber added tallies of their own to give shorthanded Kansas City an emphatic home win.
The loss ended the Revs' nine-match unbeaten run.
The match was not without controversy, as the refereeing by Allen Chapman took center stage. First he appeared to give the Revolution a bit of a let-off in the first half by not calling a penalty when Caldwell stepped hard on Paulo Nagamura and bodied him down in the box. Then, in the 42nd minute, he pointed to the spot for a phantom challenge by Jose Goncalves on Dwyer when even the striker was surprised to hear the whistle. Feilhaber converted that penalty to put Kansas City up 3-1.
Featuring a rotated lineup with Saturday's Eastern Conference showdown against D.C. United clearly in mind, the Revolution defense looked out of rhythm and out of sorts with Jermaine Jones and Jose Goncalves partnered in the center. Andrew Farrell was rested after playing every minute of every match prior to Wednesday night.
Sporting suffered from its own issues, missing regular starters Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza, and Seth Sinovic, as well as quality depth players like hotshot defensive prospect Erik Palmer-Brown. They could only field six substitutes on the bench.
Two plays in the first ten minutes could have served as harbinger of things to come. In the 8th minute, Hungarian attacker Nemeth bore down on the back line, and with a simple turn and shoulder-fake, totally crossed-up Jermaine Jones before firing high and wide. Later, this would be emblematic of the problems faced by the Revolution defense.
Then, just a minute later, Jones fired a ball forward from defense. Juan Agudelo demonstrated unbelievable skill to heel-flick the ball out of mid-air and into the path of London Woodberry, who delivered a typically-perfect cross to Diego Fagundez, streaking in on goal, wide open and near the penalty spot. Fagundez, unfortunately, scuffed his volley wide, a miss the Revs would rue later.
Agudelo opened the scoring moments later in the 11th minute, and it looked as though the Revs would cruise. Kelyn Rowe picked off a wayward Feilhaber pass and immediately fed Agudelo, who niftily crossed up both center-backs and the goalkeeper before rolling the ball home.
Kansas City responded in the 29th minute, again showcasing the Revolution defense's difficulty dealing with balls in the air, especially Jermaine Jones. Nemeth crossed from the right and Jones completely misjudged his header, allowing Dwyer to chest the ball and turn Jones with ease before volleying past Brad Knighton for the equalizer.
Jones was again the culprit for Sporting's second goal in the 39th minute. A Feilhaber free kick found Nemeth at the near post unmarked, and he headed home. His marker was supposed to be Jones, but the ersatz center-back had lost track of him from essentially the moment the play began.
Chapman made his mark on the match in the 42nd minute when he pointed to the spot, claiming Goncalves had tugged illegally on Dwyer. Even Dwyer was shocked to get the call, and hadn't been looking for it, but Feilhaber nevertheless buried the penalty to bring Kansas City into the half with a 3-1 lead.
Sporting scored almost immediately from the restart as Jacob Peterson dispossessed a lackadaisical and inattentive Kevin Alston before centering for Nemeth, who put it away for his second of the game.
Scott Caldwell pulled one back with his second goal of the season in the 64th minute, after Teal Bunbury and Charlie Davies had come on. Goncalves popped a ball over the top for Davies, who slashed into the box and to touch on the left before pulling back for Caldwell, trailing the play, who opened his hips and slotted home.
The introduction of Chris Tierney, also rested ahead of Saturday, changed the game for the Revs, but it was not enough. Tierney forced a save from a direct free kick, and created a great chance for Agudelo on another dead ball delivery. Bunbury also missed a free header, sending the ball wayward with his shoulder.
New England won't have time to dwell on the loss, as they face D.C. United on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.