Kei Kamara continues to punish the Revolution.
The Sierra-Leone international's brace helped lead Sporting Kansas City (11-7-6, 39 points) to a 3-0 victory over New England (8-9-6, 30 points) at Sporting Park on Saturday night. Former Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber added another goal, curling a freekick into the back of the net in second half stoppage time.
With their offense cruising, Kansas City handed the listless Revolution their eighth shutout of the season. The loss, the Revolution's second straight, pushes them down to seventh place in the Eastern Conference behind Chicago and Houston for the fifth and final playoff spot.
"We didnít start well, didnít finish well and we lost 3-0," explained Head Coach Jay Heaps. "Itís disappointing because they had three shots on goal in the game and scored on all three. Thatís a tough stat to look at because we pride ourselves on closing people down and trying to defend."
Kamara entered Saturday's match with seven career goals and three assists against the Revolution. He calmly, and without much trouble, dismantled New England's back line again.
In the 27th minute, he out-jumped Kevin Alston in the penalty area to loop a cross by Soony Saad past Bobby Shuttleworth for the opening score. He doubled his tally and Kansas City's lead by beating Alston again to finish off another Saad cross with a diving header in the 50th minute.
"Our thought process was that we wanted to have a physical presence on (Kei) Kamara," said Heaps of Alston's marking of Kamara. "You hope for a spark, but tonight we were flat all the way around. We didnít take our chances and we didnít defend that well.".
Alston slotted in at left back while Chris Tierney got pushed up to left midfield in Heaps' 4-5-1 formation. Dimitry Imbongo, who was red carded in the second half, played as the lone forward. In addition, Heaps decided to rest Diego Fagundez and Juan Toja.
The Revolution's offense didn't click with the formation, either. It took 30 minutes before the Revolution took a shot. It took 40 minutes before they forced Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen to make a save.
Imbongo sneaked his way in behind the defense off a long ball by Nguyen in the 40th minute, though Nielsen blocked the ensuing drive to keep the Revolution off the scoreboard for his first and only save of the first half.
"We didnít start that well and gave up a goal in the first half," explained Andrew Farrell. "But even then we had a lot of chances and the game could have gone either way. Had we scored any of our chances, we would have been in it."
The Revolution tried to build up some offensive pressure in the early stages of the second half, but those efforts were stopped by Kansas City once Kamara completed his brace. Then, the chances for a comeback were eliminated when referee Baldomero Toledo red carded Imbongo and Andy Dorman.
"The key on the road is to defend and take your chances when you create them," explained Tierney. "We had some good chances in the first half but they didnít go in for us. Their second goal and then the red cards killed us off."
Imbongo was ejected via a second yellow for elbowing Uri Rossell in the throat in the 64th minute. Dorman, who came on for Lee Nguyen midway through the second half, was ejected for a tackle from behind on Kamara in the 86th minute.
Toledo drew another red card in second half stoppage time for Stephen McCarthy, who dragged down Feilhaber just outside the penalty area. Feilhaber scored on the ensuing spot kick, though Toledo withdrew the red card to McCarthy because he mistakenly thought he had already been cautioned.
Toledo has been the center of controversy for years and was voted the worst referee in the league by an anonymous player survey conducted by Sports Illustrated last season. On Saturday, he lived up to his negative reputation.
Red carding McCarthy for thinking he had already been yellow carded was just clumsy. But he also missed two possible handballs in the penalty area against the Revolution in the first half. Despite those errors and others, he was justified in ejecting both Imbongo and Dorman.
It was the first time the Revolution had two players sent off in a game since a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake on April 9, 2011. Heaps dealt with the unfamiliar situation by switching to a makeshift 3-3-2 formation, bringing on Diego Fagundez and Chad Barrett for an offensive spark.
The duo helped liven up the Revolution's attack in the waning moments of the match despite being down by multiple goals and two players. Barrett had the Revolution's best chance of the half, another one-on-one with Nielsen that the Kansas City keeper parried away to keep the shutout.
"Against a team like them, the difference between a win and a loss is taking your chances when you get them," admitted Farrell. "Weíve just got to find a way to get those goals."
The Revolution have been shutout in consecutive games for the first time since April. They've extended their winless record at Sporting Park to 0-3-1. In allowing the three goals on Saturday, the Revolution's defense is no longer the strongest in the league either; Portland has allowed 21 goals, two fewer than New England.
The Revolution will try to bounce back next weekend against Chicago at Gillette Stadium. Despite the loss, the fifth and final playoff spot is only one win out of reach. With a win next Saturday, the Revolution could leap frog Chicago, too.
"Weíll look forward to a positive reaction at home," added Tierney. "Weíve had two bad road results in a row. Weíve talked about it all year that we donít want to go on losing streaks.
tís time to draw the line in the sand, and weíll come out next week fired up."
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