KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Claudio Bieler hadn’t scored since early September, and not from the run of play since mid-July.
Seth Sinovic hadn’t found the net since last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
But the Argentinian center forward and the hard-working hometown left back both came up big on Wednesday night, with clutch goals that lifted Sporting Kansas City into the East finals with a 3-1 overtime victory over the New England Revolution.
Sinovic scored in the 79th minute to force the extra period, nine minutes after Dmitry Imbongo‘s goal forced a 1-all tie in Wednesday’s match and gave the Revolution a 3-2 aggregate lead in the two-match series.
Then, 23 minutes into overtime, Bieler — a late second-half substitute — delivered the series-winner off a cross from Benny Feilhaber.
“I think this game shows the character that our team has,” said Sinovic, whose only previous career goal came last year in Sporting’s East semifinal loss to Houston. “We were down two goals in New England and needed a goal to make things a little more realistic coming home, and then they tied it tonight and we needed another goal. So hopefully we can bring that to the next round.”
Bieler, who entered in the 84th minute, led Sporting with 10 goals in the regular season.
But the designated player’s minutes had fallen off in recent months, and he last scored on a penalty kick on Sept. 7 against Columbus.
“He and I had a talk here last week,” manager Peter Vermes said. “I said to him, ‘There’s more soccer to play here. You don’t understand yet what the playoff environment is like, but the opportunities are going to come and you’re going to stick one away for us, maybe two, and they’re going to be big goals.’ He is what he is. He’s a goal-scorer, and it’s great to see him get his confidence on that goal because we need him down the stretch here.”
Defender Aurelien Collin also scored for Sporting, who will open the conference finals against Houston on Saturday.
Collin knocked in a deflection in the 41st minute for his second goal of the postseason, but Imbongo’s goal, a free kick in the 70th minute, tied Wednesday’s leg at 1 and put the Revolution up 3-2 on aggregate.
Sporting finished with a 32-5 advantage in shots and could have put in one more goal late in overtime, but Graham Zusi hit the crossbar with Revolution keeper Matt Reis injured outside of the penalty area.
“We tried, and I felt we had a couple chances here and there,” New England coach Jay Heaps said. “We were hoping to get to penalties because we were hanging on and we thought we had the advantage there.”