New England 3 – Kansas City 2: Revs Win in Feilhaber’s Debut

Well, that didn’t take long. After Chivas USA and the Philadelphia Union declined to pick up Benny Feilhaber, the US international sparked a New England Revolution victory in his first MLS start.

1st Half

New England manager Steve Nicol elected to field Feilhaber as a center midfielder in his side’s 4-4-1-1. With Shalrie Joseph dropping into midfield, the Revolution had two quality passers able to pick out teammates. And Feilhaber’s outstanding vision was the key component of the first forty-five minutes.

The starting lineups

Though Feilhaber got off to a bad start (he sent the ball out of bounds in the second minute), he quickly demonstrated the passing ability that makes him invaluable to US manager Bob Bradley. Time and again, he sent cross-field passes to teammates running into space. It was his layoff that set up Marko Perovic for the opening goal in the 12th. Kansas City deserves some blame for the goal, as Feilhaber ran onto a failed clearance just outside the box.

The visitors quickly made up for their gaffe. Two minutes after Perovic’s strike, Kei Kamara and Teal Bunbury played a simple one-two on the edge of the box, with Kamara starting and ending the sequence. Poor marking would, unfortunately, come to characterize the game’s goal-scoring opportunities.

Kansas City was organized to take advantage of the defensive miscues. Their 4-5-1/4-3-3 gave them the perfect formation to counter when New England lost possession. After Didier Domi gave the ball away in the 29th, Sporting really should have grabbed the lead. Feilhaber and midfield partner Stephen McCarthy had both gone forward, leaving the center backs a lot of ground to cover. The swarming KC counter ended with a Davy Arnaud shot, but goalkeeper Matt Reis rescued his teammates.

2nd Half

Both managers made their first changes on the cusp of 60 minutes. Nicol brought on Kenny Mansally for an injured Marko Perovic and Peter Vermes inserted Graham Zusi for Milos Stojcev. The substitutions did little to change the match. Indeed, the tactics stayed the same. Kansas City countered – and played through the feet of the lively Kamara and CJ Sapong – while New England used Feilhaber’s passing to break down their opponent’s defense.

A two-goal flurry later in the half was, again, less about tactics and more about defensive breakdowns. Kevin Alston brought down Teal Bunbury in the box (it should be said that there were earlier calls for penalties from both sides) and Kamara was outjumped by Joseph on a free kick. The 68th and 72nd-minute goals would be eclipsed in importance by a straight red to Aurelien Collin, who brushed Feilhaber with his elbow (75th).

Feilhaber and Joseph then had even more space in which to pick out passes (Joseph dropped into midfield after Zach Schilawski came on for McCarthy). But it was the cross of Zak Boggs that allowed Rajko Lekic to bag three points for the Revolution. KC substitute Shavar Thomas briefly lost track of the striker, and Lekic took advantage to head Boggs’ service into the net.

Gringos, did you see Feilhaber’s MLS debut? Were you impressed by his performance?

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