By CARL SETTERLUND
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Revolution couldn’t take advantage of a 73rd-minute red card to the Chicago Fire’s Quincy Amarikwa last weekend, settling for a draw. With a little more motivation to push the Revs forward, host New England capitalized on a nearly identical situation Saturday night against Sporting Kansas City.
Sporting KC went down to 10 men after 74th-minute red card to Aurelien Collin, but with another tie looking all but certain, New England struck gold with a pair of stoppage time goals by Teal Bunbury and Lee Nguyen to secure a 2-0 victory in front of 14,806 at Gillette Stadium.
Bunbury rose to the moment against his former club, making a run to the near right post in the 92nd minute and getting rewarded as Diego Fagundez’s right-side cross took a slight deflection off the head of the diving Darrius Barnes and came to Bunbury for the finish.
“I’m more excited about getting a win,” Bunbury said. “It’s definitely exciting to score a goal and to score a goal against your old club and hopefully it will keep my momentum going. It was a great ball by Diego, Darrius (Barnes) getting in there and causing some commotion and I was able to get in there and get a poacher’s goal.”
It was the first goal of the season for the previously slumping Bunbury, whom SKC jettisoned to the Revs over the offseason.
“I think (Bunbury’s goal) was big for all of us,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “It was a big moment. Coming off an (opponent) red card last week, we felt we didn’t leave it all on the table to get the three points. I think tonight, it’s funny how you have another chance at it and it looked like we were a little bit more aggressive and we were more aggressive in trying to get the goal.”
Fagundez played a part in both New England goals, first assisting on Bunbury’s winner and then drawing a penalty two minutes afterward as he got in behind keeper Eric Kronberg, and after an initial save headed a follow up toward goal that forced Oriol Rosell into handling the ball.
Nguyen, who also netted on a PK the previous weekend, was chosen by Heaps to do the honors again, going left on Kronberg to seal the final result. It can be argued a cruel fate for Fagundez, who was outwardly seen asking to take the penalty.
“They looked over to me, and I always give them the signal,” Heaps said. “Lee Ngyuen has been taking them all year really well and I think in a different score line, maybe we give it to a different kicker. But tonight a 1-0 match in the 90th minute, we’re giving it to our natural PK taker.”
After a breakthrough season last year, Fagundez is still looking for his first goal of 2014. The Uruguayan-born winger tried not to take Heaps’ decision as a snub, saying he was just happy to pocket a win.
“It is important to have a go-to penalty kicker. He hasn’t missed all year and it’s good for the team,” Fagundez said. “At the end of day it doesn’t matter who takes the penalty kick as long as we execute.”
Along with Bunbury, the rest of the Revolution had plenty of motivation for revenge against Kansas City. New England (3-3-2, 11 points) led the MLS champions on aggregate late in last year’s Eastern Conference quarterfinals before conceding twice to lose the series.
Although Sporting KC (3-2-2, 11 points) entered the game atop the Eastern Conference standings, the loss puts Peter Vermes’ side in a four-way tie for second place along with New England, New York and D.C. United.
“The game wasn’t a 2-0 game by any means,” Vermes said. “I thought that we had very good run of play (and) I thought our possession was good away from home.”
Another positive the Revs was their third straight shutout at the Gillette Stadium, improving to 2-0-1 at home this season.
“We’ve talked about this a lot this year how we wanted to improve our home record,” said Revolution goalie Bobby Shuttleworth who needed just one save to record his third shutout of the season, all coming at home.
New England is also unbeaten in its last three home games against Sporting KC, winning 2-1 in the first leg of last season’s playoff matchup and also limiting the champs to a 0-0 draw earlier in 2013.
With Bunbury previously goalless in 2014 and regular starting outside midfielder Saer Sene missing for an undisclosed reason, Heaps shifted from his usual 4-5-1 formation to a 4-4-2 and paired Bunbury with Honduran international Jerry Bengtson up top.
Bengtson got in behind the defense early on in the 14th minute off a chip from Nguyen but missed an open look wide right.
Bunbury had two good tries in the first half, first creating space at the right edge of the six-yard box in the 21st minute, only to have his shot blocked by Matt Besler. Later on in the 32nd, he sent in a high rocket from roughly the same spot but Kronberg was able to parry it over the crossbar.
The game received a shot in the arm in the 74th minute when Collin was red-carded for tripping up Fagundez as the 19-year-old made an incisive run toward goal.
“I have to say I think the red card was extremely harsh,” Vermes said. “There was nothing in that tackle that I think warranted a red card. I think it changes the game a little bit, but I thought we managed the situation all the way up until the first goal.”
The Revs showed poor execution on the ensuing free kick, allowing SKC to stage a furious counterattack, but former New England midfielder Benny Feilhaber skied it in close on what looked like a sitter.
“I had a great chance after the red card and if I had put that one away, maybe we would have taken the three points,” said Feilhaber, who rued the missed opportunity.
New England will have to be up for a challenge again the next two weekends with an away game against revamped Toronto FC coming up at 1 p.m. next Saturday, followed by a home game against the Seattle Sounders the following week.
Sporting KC will be thrust in the national spotlight for its next match, hosting new Eastern Conference leader Columbus at 3 p.m. next Sunday in a game to be broadcasted on NBC Sports.
Watch highlights of the match below: