FOXBOROUGH — The impatient will point to the result — another scoreless tie that saw the Revolution struggle to produce anything worthy of being called a scoring chance. Same old Revolution, they’ll say.
The patient will look at Saturday’s home opener against Sporting Kansas City in its entirety: The Revolution were missing key components all over the pitch. Wind gusts made it nearly impossible for a team that prefers to keep the ball on the ground to control the game. And yet the Revolution still fought to a tie against a Kansas City team expected to compete for the MLS Cup this season.
But for Revolution coach Jay Heaps, no goals and only three shots — none on goal — still added up to a positive result at Gillette Stadium.
“I hope [fans] saw something a little bit different from us in terms of how we go out there and fight,” said Heaps, in his second season trying to turn around a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009. “I thought last year maybe this game slips away from us and maybe we lose it.”
The Revolution moved to 1-1-1 with 4 points, tied with D.C. United for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Playing without forward Jerry Bengtson, who scored New England’s only goal this season but was fulfilling his duties with the Honduras national team Saturday, the Revolution stuck with their 4-3-2-1 formation, sliding MLS veteran Chad Barrett into the lone attacking role. Saer Sene, the 26-year-old Frenchman who scored 11 goals in 25 games for the Revolution last year, was also out of the lineup as he continues to recover from knee surgery.
Sporting KC was also missing defender Matt Besler and midfielder Graham Zusi, who are with the US team.
“I don’t think those guys would have helped today,” KC coach Peter Vermes said. “This game was really just about two teams battling and trying to get lucky.”
Barrett, who scored 42 goals in 194 MLS games with four different teams, was an energizer, stretching the KC defense with constant movement, but he struggled to collect and redistribute with his back to the goal, especially against a strong, physical Kansas City defense.
“My job was just to create havoc up there and make sure if they were getting their heads on balls, they weren’t going to get clean heads on balls,” Barrett said. “That’s what the game called for. Hopefully, as it goes on, we can play more attractive soccer and create more chances.”
In a fast-paced, physical first half, the Revolution controlled possession, with Clyde Simms teaming with Scott Caldwell to push the ball forward, where attacking midfielders Lee Nguyen and Juan Toja were able to use their creativity to string together a few passes.
But the Revolution couldn’t get a clean look on net as they finished the half with zero shots for only the 10th time in franchise history.
KC’s Benny Feilhaber, playing against the Revolution for the first time after spending the last two seasons in New England, did his best to create scoring chances, nearly generating a goal in the 16th minute, when he slotted a through pass down the left wing to Soony Saad. Saad swung a pass into C.J. Sapong, whose one-time shot sailed wide of the net.
Feilhaber, who shined in the first half but was much less involved in the second, was later whistled for a diving penalty in New England’s 18-yard box.
Heaps said he considered putting 18-year-old Diego Fagundez in the lineup in the second half, but decided against it because of the swirling winds.
Ryan Guy, who played mostly midfield last season but is making the transition to forward, entered for Barrett in the 64th minute, the only substitute New England used.
“It was nice to be out there and be on the pitch with the guys just to see what this new-look Revolution is feeling like,” Guy said. “And I felt really positive, even though it was kind of an ugly game with everything going.”