The New England Revolution are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 after Juan Agudelo’s first half goal carried the team to a 1-0 victory against the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Agudelo combined brilliantly with Lee Nguyen in the 28th minute to score the games lone goal and the Revolution defense held strong the rest of the way for the club’s 14th shutout of the season.
The win, combined with the Chicago Fire’s loss to New York Red Bulls later in the day, puts the Revolution (14-11-9, 51 points) in the third seed in the East. The Revolution will host the second seeded Sporting Kansas City at Gillette Stadium for the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinal, likely on Saturday, November 2.
Head coach Jay Heaps made three changes to the line-up that beat the Crew 3-2 at Gillette Stadium last weekend. Lee Nguyen returned from suspension to replace Scott Caldwell in central midfield, Dimitry Imbongo took over for Jerry Bengtson up top, and Kevin Alston filled in for the injured Chris Tierney at left back.
New England nearly got off to a disastrous start when AJ Soares turned the ball over with a bad pass under pressure just outside of the box in the third minute. Dominic Oduro picked off the pass and blasted a shot on frame, but goalkeeper Matt Reis tipped it over the net.
The Crew came close again in the 26th minute, when Jairo Arrieta got forward and attempted a shot from just outside the box, but sent his effort just wide of the post.
Agudelo would give the Revolution the lead in the 28th minute. The 20-year-old striker got the ball at the top of the box, then backheeled it to Lee Nguyen, making a run into the box. Nguyen played it across goal back to Agudelo, who placed it past goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum to make it 1-0 with his ninth goal of the year.
The Revolution managed to keep the lead at the break, despite the Crew having 69% possession in the first half.
The second half saw limited chances for each side, but with the Revolution sitting back to defend their lead, the Crew threatened in the 78th minute when Justan Meram played a pass that allowed Ryan Finley to beat the offside trap. Finley ran in on goal with another Crew attacker, but his shot couldn’t beat Reis at the near post, keeping the Revolution ahead 1-0.
Dominic Oduro was ejected in the 90th minute, handing the Revolution a man advantage, but referee Hilario Grajeda gave the Crew a lifeline, calling for eight minutes of stoppage time.
The Revolution nearly put the game away in the 5th minute of stoppage time when Lee Nguyen broke forward behind the defense, but his low shot to the far post was tipped wide by Gruenebaum and Agudelo let the ball roll wide for a corner kick.
Still, the visitors managed to hang on till the final whistle to advance to the postseason for the first time in four years.