While the Jermaine Jones era is off to a positive start for the New England Revolution, Sporting Kansas City is experiencing one of its most puzzling defensive stretches in over a decade.
Should Jones see more action Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium, the defending MLS Cup champion could have an even harder time correcting its defensive lapses.
Jones, a U.S. national team regular who played every minute in the American midfield for all four World Cup matches, made his MLS debut as a substitute in Saturday's 3-0 win at Toronto. The 32-year-old Bundesliga veteran played the final 25 minutes with the Revolution (10-12-3) already leading by three goals, and he admitted his fitness isn't all the way back after nearly two months away from competition.
"It was a long break for me and I can feel it," Jones told the club's official website. "I need time on the pitch, of course, but step by step. Today was 25 minutes, maybe next game a little bit longer. But I will try my best to be 100 percent fast."
Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe gave New England a two-goal halftime lead before Teal Bunbury scored in the 58th minute. Nguyen has three goals and two assists in the past five games and also scored a stoppage-time goal along with Bunbury in a 2-0 home win over Sporting on April 26.
New England has strung together consecutive shutout victories and a Sporting-like 205 straight minutes without conceding a goal. A 3-1-1 stretch since suffering through an eight-game losing streak has righted the season some, and with three straight home matches coming, the recovery could be quite substantial.
The Revolution are 4-1-1 at home against Kansas City since the start of 2010, and earning another three points would get them within six of Sporting for second place in the Eastern Conference with a match in hand.
Bunbury spent the previous four seasons in Kansas City, in which he never witnessed the problems his former club has experienced in its last two games.
After Friday's 3-1 home loss to Houston, Sporting (12-8-6) has conceded six goals in two games after going 40 consecutive league matches without surrendering three goals. The club hadn't allowed three or more in back-to-back league losses since Aug. 14-18, 2002. It will now try to avoid losing three straight matches of any kind for the first time since April 21-May 12, 2012.
"We're in a rough patch right now," center back Matt Besler said. "It's as simple as that. We have to find a way to get out of it. We can talk about a lot of different things, but the bottom line is, we have to come together and figure a way out of it. That's not what we're about, the last two games."
After struggling with the counterattack in a 3-0 loss to D.C. on Aug. 23, Sporting was done in by two of the Dynamo's set pieces in a five-minute span of the second half. Dom Dwyer had tied the match at 1-all for Kansas City in the 54th minute.
Dwyer's 17 goals trail only the 20 of New York's Bradley Wright-Phillips for the MLS lead.
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