If the New England Revolution are to extend their first playoff appearance in four years past the Eastern Conference semifinals, they must find a way to finally score against Sporting Kansas City.
The surging Revolution try to end a five-match scoreless drought against visiting Kansas City on Saturday night in the first leg of this two-match, aggregate-goal series.
New England was seventh in the East before facing D.C. United on Sept. 21, but a victory that day began a 4-0-2 stretch that featured three straight wins to conclude the regular season. That run gave the Revolution a 14-11-9 record and their first playoff appearance since 2009.
They climbed from sixth to third place in the conference standings on the final day of the regular season Sunday after Juan Agudelo's goal lifted them to a 1-0 victory at Columbus.
"I think it's one of the good things about where we've come from, being at the bottom of the Eastern Conference or close to the bottom and having to work our way up," goalkeeper Matt Reis told the Revolution's official website. "We've been in this kind of survive-and-advance mode for a while."
The Revolution need to maintain that attitude in this first playoff meeting against Sporting Kansas City, which finished 17-10-7 and one point behind New York for the best record in MLS.
Sporting KC ended the MLS regular season on a 6-1-1 run, winning its final two games.
"We are a team that believes in our system, we know what works and we are playing with confidence going into the playoffs," defender Matt Besler told the team's official website.
Kansas City has shut out the Revolution in the last five meetings and outscored them 8-1 during its current 3-0-3 stretch in the series, dating to a 3-2 road loss April 23, 2011. The teams played to a scoreless draw at New England on March 23 before Kansas City posted a 3-0 home victory over the Revolution on Aug. 10.
Though New England is well aware of those recent struggles against Sporting KC, it hopes to further ride the wave of success achieved at the end of the regular season into the playoffs.
"I think if you look historically at a lot of the teams that have done well in the playoffs, it's the teams that, to get in there in the last bit, have to have been playing with a little bit of desperation in the last couple weeks," Reis said. "Knowing how tough it is just to get into the playoffs and now to be able to have a chance to win a cup is huge."
New England's Diego Fagundez has recorded six of his team-leading 13 goals in his last 10 matches but has never scored in three versus Kansas City.
Agudelo has seven goals in 14 matches since he was acquired from Chivas USA on May 7.
Claudio Bieler has a team-high 10 goals in MLS play for Kansas City, but one in his last eight matches.
Kansas City hosts the second leg of the series Wednesday.