Photo by Greg Bartram/USA Today Sports
By DAN KARELL
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Crew and New England Revolution may not be historic rivals, but the Crew enacted a small measure of revenge against the team that knocked the Crew out of the playoffs last season.
In front of a small crowd on a warm Wednesday evening at MAPFRE Stadium, the Crew overcame an early deficit to defeat the Revolution, 2-1. Crew forward Kei Kamara extended his MLS-leading goal total to 12 goals with both of his team’s goals on the night.
“We talked before the game about managing the game, no matter what happens,” Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter said following the match. “We go down a goal, we go up a goal, (or) it stays tied, (we) manage the game. I think after that happened, it didn’t really affect us. Obviously it affected the scoreline but the guys kept going and kept playing, and the guys seemed to settle in nicely.”
Revolution playmaker Lee Nguyen scored his side’s only goal, which came inside the opening minute.
The win broke a six-game winless streak for the Crew, while it was the Revolution’s fourth consecutive loss on the road.
We scored first and you’d like to be able to respond and right away we didn’t,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “It’s unfortunate because if you get through five or ten minutes after scoring, you have a better chance of making it through. We didn’t, credit to the Columbus Crew [SC]. Like I said, the big moments didn’t go our way and I want to go back and look at the second goal and I want to go back look at some of the plays along the way.”
On the Revolution’s opening goal, the Crew suffered a comedy of tactical errors, as three of their key players in the middle of the field were caught up field. First, midfielder Tony Tchani was ahead of the play after left-back Waylon Francis turned the ball over in the middle of the field.
Tchani’s central midfield partner Mohamed Saied then failed to win the ball, and centerback Emanuel Pogatetz missed a challenge on Kelyn Rowe. Rowe touched the ball on to the oncoming Nguyen, who only needed two touches on the ball before placing a shot past Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark to give the Revolution the lead after just 33 seconds.
It only took the Crew about 180 seconds to respond. Right back Hector Jimenez played a cross into the box that met the head of Crew playmaker Federico Higuain. The Argentine’s re-directed cross careened off the crossbar and fortuitously fell to Kamara, who flung himself to the ball and headed a shot in for the tying goal in the fourth minute.
“Good cross from Hector in the first place and Pipa (Higuain) getting that header in,” Kamara said. “Even in warmups, I try to just look for rebounds all the time. I’m not going to get many chances shooting on goal but sniffing around the goal is good.
“I saw it bang off the crossbar and all I had to do was make sure I kept it on frame. It was good enough.”
As the rest of the half wore on, the Crew settled into the game, and for the most part, dominated possession, finishing with more than 61 percent in the half. The Crew generated plenty of crossing attempts from the wings, but the duo of Andrew Farrell and Jose Goncalves kept firm in central defense for the Revolution.
Crew winger Justin Meram believed that the 30 minutes following the Revolution’s goal was some of the best soccer the team had played this season.
“To be honest, when that goal was scored, I couldn’t believe it. But you know what? Right after that goal, I think we played probably the best soccer we have that whole game, the next 30 minutes. That just shows our composure, we didn’t let it affect us.”
Early in the second half, a pair of no-calls by referee Fotis Bazakos changed the outlook of the game.
Meram got on the end of a Jimenez cross in the left side of the box and his shot on target went off the forearm of Jeremy Hall before the Revolution right-back cleared the ball away. Seconds later, in the 50th minute, Ethan Finlay controlled a long cross from Francis with his hand, but nothing was called.
While the Revolution defense protested the call, Finlay crossed to Kamara, who tapped home to score his second goal of the game and give the Crew a 2-1 lead.
“We talked about it,” Finlay said. “We don’t have a penalty kick this year. When that one originally went off Jeremy Hall, I thought we might not be getting one any time soon.
“But that’s lady luck for you. Maybe sometimes one doesn’t go your way and one bounces your way. In no way did I try to play the ball with my hand, if anything it went off my side and my hand might have gotten in the way.”
Kamara’s second goal gave him four occasions on the season with a pair of goals, and it broke a streak of 321 minutes that the Crew had not held a lead. Finlay’s assist was also his league-leading ninth of the season.
With the introduction of Charlie Davies at halftime, the Revolution started to play in a more attacking style, but overall, Davies was neutralized by the duo of Pogatetz and Michael Parkhurst. However, the two defenders did draw yellow cards for similar fouls on the midway line against Davies stopping him from going on a breakaway.
The final 30 minutes of the match were marked with some players getting rests ahead of weekend matches as well as chippy play and multiple yellow cards shown.
Berhalter removed Jimenez, Higuain, and Meram in the second half while Heaps took out Agudelo, Daigo Kobayashi, and Scott Caldwell.
Also in the second half, Bazakos showed seven yellow cards, five of them to the Crew and two to the Revolution.
The cards, including three in stoppage time, took away some of the rhythm of the game, although the Revolution threatened late as they played long balls into the box and bombed forward looking for a game-tying goal.
But Steve Clark stood up to the challenge and along with substitute Chad Barson’s key clearance in stoppage time, the Crew held on for the win.
“We’ve got to be more lethal and more ruthless and we haven’t been,” Heaps said. “We’ve got to find the right pieces to make it happen.”
After the game, Berhalter said that his goal is for the team use this win as momentum looking forward.
“It’s another game,” Berhalter said. “It was a good win, it was a tough win. At the end, it got nerve-racking, so it was good to have to go through that and still get the three points. But I think we just want to keep making progress. We want to keep improving.”