FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution grabbed a crucial three points with a back-and-forth 3-2 win over the Columbus Crew to keep their playoff hopes alive heading into the final game of the season. A.J. Soares, Chris Tierney and Diego Fagundez all scored in the win to send a season high crowd of 26,458 at Gillette Stadium home happy as the Revolution – temporarily, at least – moved into a playoff spot and extended their unbeaten run to five games.
“We were all excited [by the large crowd],” said Fagundez. “We knew it was going to be a playoff atmosphere, especially coming out here. We hope to go out to Columbus [next week] get that win and then go back to the playoffs.”
Soares put New England in the lead in the 32nd minute off a Kelyn Rowe free kick, but the Crew equalized through Dominic Oduro in the 59th minute. The Revolution would retake the lead on a Tierney penalty kick 10 minute later, but the Crew knotted the score again within two minutes through substitute Aaron Schoenfeld.
Fagundez would put the Revolution back in the lead for good in the 76th minute after a fantastic set-up by Andy Dorman. Dorman – making his first start since April 20th – also earned the free kick for the Revolution’s first goal and the penalty kick.
“I thought it was a pretty exciting game to say the least,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “It was really a tale of two halves because our first half I thought was complete and we played really well. I thought we should’ve gotten our second goal and we didn’t and it really put us in a lot of pressure.
“When you’re playing against teams that are fighting for everything – you can see both teams needed to win, both teams risked a lot for the win – that’s why the game was wide open. Credit Columbus because I thought they had an excellent second half and every time we seemed to step ahead they pounded back.”
Heaps made two changes – both forced – to the line-up that won 1-0 at the Montreal Impact last week. Jerry Bengtson replaced Saer Sene – who underwent season ending ankle surgery – starting up top, while Juan Agudelo moved to the midfield, and Andy Dorman replaced the suspended Lee Nguyen in the center of the midfield.
“Andy played so well in the New York game [on October 5th],” said Heaps. “I thought he came in and changed that game and then he got the red card. I think he would’ve been in my plans for Montreal had he not gotten the red card.”
The win pushed the Revolution (13-11-9, 48 points) into the fifth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, though the team would fall into sixth if the Houston Dynamo get a win or draw Sunday against the New York Red Bulls. The Crew (12-16-5, 41 points) were eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.
The Columbus Crew nearly grabbed an early lead in just the sixth minute, when Bernardo Anor broke forward on a quick counter attack. Anor collided with Jose Goncalves, but passed to Dominic Oduro before going down and the referee played on. Oduro dribbled around Matt Reis, but his shot was blocked by Scott Caldwell, keeping the score at 0-0.
New England then had a great chance themselves a minute later when a fantastic long thorough ball from Kelyn Rowe near midfield sprung Agudelo into the right side of the box. Agudelo attempted to chip a shot over Matt Lampson, but his effort rolled wide of the target.
The Revolution had another chance in the 12th minute when a cleared Revolution free kick fell to Rowe. Rowe sent a cross to the far post when Agudelo attempted a header across frame. Lampson attempted to collect the ball, but it fell to Dorman, who tried a shot to the near post from close range. Lampson again got down to make the save, tipping it wide for a corner kick.
The Crew came close in the 25th minute when Tony Tchani played Oduro into the box. Oduro attempted a shot on frame, but Reis was quick off his line to make the save.
Soares would open the scoring and put the Revolution in the lead in 32nd off a Rowe free kick. Rowe delivered a dangerous in-swinging cross and Soares rose above his man to power a header past Lampson.
“It was all about the ball,” said Soares. “Kelyn Rowe put the ball perfect and I didn’t have to do much.”
The team went into halftime with the 1-0 lead. During the break, Fagundez was named the team’s season MVP, while Jose Goncalves earned Defender of the Year. Reis was named the team’s Humanitarian of the Year.
The Crew came out with renewed energy in the second half and Chad Marshall directed a header off a free kick just wide in the 47th minute. Jairo Arrieta then took advantage of the Revolution defense being pulled out of position a few minutes later to direct an Oduro cross on frame from close range, but Reis was there to make the save.
The home side finally threatened again in the 58th minute with Chris Tierney sent a dangerous cross in from the left flank. The ball fell to Bengtson at the far post and he sent it back across goal where Diego Fagundez directed a header just wide of the target.
But just seconds later the Crew would equalize through Oduro. Halftime substitute Aaron Schoenfeld played Oduro into the box and the speedy striker blasted a shot past Reis to make it, 1-1.
The drama continued as the Revolution retook the lead in the 69th minute after Rowe saw a couple of close range efforts saved by Lampson. Dorman chased after the rebound, but was hacked down by Tony Tchani and referee Mark Geiger called for a penalty. Tierney stepped up and hit a low shot to Lampson’s left to make it, 2-1.
“The ball popped out and I could see [Tchani] was kind of looking more at the player next to him than me coming from behind,” said Dorman. “I saw the leg come out and felt a touch and kind of went down. Obviously Chris has done well to tuck it away.”
The back-and-forth action continued when two minutes later the Crew equalized through Schoenfeld after some sustained pressure. The ball fell to Oduro at the top of the box and he played it in to Schoenfeld, who turned and shot past Reis to make it 2-2.
But New England would take back the lead for good in the 76th when substitute Dimitry Imbongo played Andy Dorman down the left flank. Dorman sent a cross through to the newly named MVP Fagundez who easily finished for his 13th goal of the season.
“It feels amazing,” said Fagundez. “That goal to come [when it did], I think it was perfect timing. I think we were all excited and I think that’s when our momentum definitely went up and then I think we knew we needed to defend very hard.”
Agudelo then tested Lampson in the 82nd minute with a powerful volley from the top of the box, but Crew keeper was up to the task.
New England dodged a bullet in the 86th minute when Justin Meram beat the Revolution defense down the left flank and sent in a dangerous low cross to the near post. Reis tipped the ball right into Schoenfeld’s path, but the second year player missed from point blank range.
The Revolution held on through five minutes of stoppage time and now head to Columbus for the season finale next Sunday needing a win and some help to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
“It was great [playing in front of such a large crowd],” said Reis. “Just hearing when Chris [Tierney] hit the penalty kick, everybody cheering and just everybody behind us the whole entire time. It was the biggest game of the year, the crowd helped us get through it and it was great for us.”