FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Roger Espinoza entered the weekend tied with the most assists in Major League Soccer this season.
The Sporting Kansas City midfielder helped create yet another goal on Saturday night – but for the New England Revolution, which took a 1-0 victory at Gillette Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 17,015.
A rogue pass by Espinoza helped furnish arguably the most confusing goal in Revolution history, and it came in the 44th minute.
The play appeared to start with Diego Fagundez making a short pass to Teal Bunbury, who was standing in the penalty area and in an offside position. Bunbury followed through by tucking the feed into the back of the net past Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia, but referee David Gantar nullified the goal due to his assistant’s raised flag.
Gantar reversed his call moments later after consulting video review, which showed that Espinoza – not Fagundez – sent the ball to Bunbury when he attempted to strip the ball away, negating the offside.
“In the back of my head I was like ‘it was probably offside,'” said Bunbury. “They reviewed it, saw it came off a Kansas City player. Just in the right spot at the right time. That’s my job, just be ready.”
Bunbury, who now leads the Revolution in scoring with four goals, said Gantar went to video review the play automatically.
“I wish we could ask for reviews, but no, they don’t listen to the players,” Bunbury said. “It comes from whoever…upstairs, I guess they call it.”
The Revolution held on to the slim margin for their first win since April 6. The result also marked Sporting KC’s first road loss of the season and snapped their seven-game unbeaten streak.
Sporting struggled to generate consistent scoring opportunities, but had the first chance of the game when Johnny Russell had a volley tipped away for a corner by New England goalkeeper Matt Turner inside the match’s first 10 seconds.
Cristian Penilla blasted a shot from the left side of the penalty area high following a Fagundez-Bunbury combination in the 27th minute and Gabriel Somi fired inches wide of the far post in the 41st before Bunbury’s goal was held up shortly before halftime.
Melia blocked Penilla’s long range blast (62nd), Andrew Farrell cleared a bid from Russell off the line (63rd) and Fagundez had a goal disallowed for a handball (80th) in a lively second half.
That Sporting KC entered the weekend with the best scoring output in the league (20 goals) made earning a clean sheet all the more sweeter for Turner.
“Over the past couple games you see us get more committed to defending,” said Turner, who now has three clean sheets this season. “I was able to stay high off my line, I was reading game well tonight. We also limited their ability to create quality chances. I only remember one or two.”
Revolution head coach Brad Friedel, who had his players use the press effectively once more on Saturday evening, was pleased with the way the team was able to manage open play when committing numbers forward.
“Of course the goalkeeper and back line were excellent, but I thought our transitions were outstanding,” added Friedel. “Sporting Kansas City changed the way that they play against us. They went very, very direct because they knew we were going to press them. I thought our back four kept a solid line…You have to stay brave in those situations. When you drop back, that’s when a lot of gaps are created in the center of midfield.”
The Revolution’s next game is at the Montreal Impact on May 5; Sporting Kansas City host the Colorado Rapids later that day.