[MLS PLAYOFFS: Sporting KC-New England] Sporting Kansas City copied the playbook from the Houston-New York series to set up its date in the Eastern Conference final series with the Dynamo. Like Houston, Sporting KC overcame a 2-0 deficit to take its series with New England 4-3 on aggregate. And like the Dynamo, Sporting KC won thanks to an overtime goal by one of its subs, forgotten man Claudio Bieler.
This isn't the first time Sporting KC has signed a DP forward only for him to languish on the bench. That happened to Mexican Omar Bravotwo years ago.
Unlike Houston hero, Omar Cummings, who had not scored a goal in the regular season, Bieler came into the playoffs as Sporting Kansas City's leading scorer but he hadn't scored since a penalty kick on Sept. 7 and wasn't even in the travel squad for Saturday's first leg in New England.
Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes has used a revolving door of players up front -- starting on Wednesday two players, Dom Dwyerand C.J. Sapong, who spent part of the season on loan in the third division at USL PRO's Orlando City -- and he insisted afterwards he had not forgotten about Bieler, saying how he had to explain to the Argentine how the playoffs worked and he told him was counting on him for at least one goal.
Bieler showed off the finishing touch that enticed Vermes to sign him from LDU Quito in Ecuador in the offseason when he slotted home a pass from Benny Feilhaber to finally put Sporting KC ahead for the first time in the series in the 113rd minute.
The play began when Matt Reis threw the ball in the direction of Diego Fagundez, but Feilhaber, starting his first game since September, stepped in and raced down the right wing before sending in a ball that Bieler touched on to the far post.
The errant pass was about the only mistake of the night for the 38-year-old Reis, who kept Revs in the game with several outstanding saves. The game ended, though, with rookie defender Andrew Farrell, in the Revs' goal for the last minute of overtime, as Reis landed awkwardly chasing a ball outside the area and had to be helped off the field.
Sporting KC finished with a 32-5 edge in shots on the evening but only had a goal from Aurelien Collin to show for its total domination in the first half (72-28 percent edge in possession).
The Revs looked to be on the verge of eliminating Sporting KC when Dimitry Imbongo put away Kelyn Rowe's free kick with a side-volley from close range in the 70th minute, but they gave Sporting KC too much room down the left side, where Graham Zusifed Seth Sinovic -- an ex-Rev like Feilhaber -- for the tying goal with 11 minutes left in regulation.
Both teams had chances after that until Bieler's winner, none greater than New England forward Juan Agudelo's open shot saved by Jimmy Nielsen in the 110th minute. It was in all likelihood Agudelo's last game in MLS as he has signed a pre-contract to join Stoke City as a free agent in January.
Nov. 6 in Kansas City, Kan.
Sporting KC 3 New England 1.Collin 41, Sinovic (Zusi, Collin) 79, Bieler (Feilhaber) 113; Imbongo (Rowe) 70.
New England --Reis, Farrell, Soares, Goncalves, Barnes (Bengtson 116), Dorman (Caldwell 46), Agudelo, Nguyen, Rowe (Barrett 85), Fagundez, Imbongo (Barrett 78).
Sporting KC -- Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Nagamura (Saad 97), Rosell, Feilhaber (Opara 116), Zusi, Dwyer (Bieler 84), Sapong.
Yellow Cards:Sporting KC -- Myers 19; New England -- Barnes 19, Caldwell 88.
(Sporting KC wins 4-3 on aggregate.)