The Revolution’s preseason winning streak came to a halt tonight as the Columbus Crew defeated the New England Revolution 3-1 in the opening match of the 2011 Atlanta Challenge Cup in Kennesaw, GA.
The Revolution, now 4-1-0, were set back early thanks to goals from Columbus’ Bernardo Anor and Tom Heinemann.
With veterans Ousmane Dabo, Darrius Barnes, Ryan Cochrane, and Marco Perovic all unavailable for the match, Revolution manager Steve Nicol was given little choice but to employ a fresh look across the pitch. The gap inside the back four created by absences to Barnes and Cochrane forced rookie defender A.J. Soares and newly-acquired Argentine defender Franco Coria to step in and play a full game side by side at the back line.
But the Soares-Coria combination showed its inexperience as the Revolution fell into an early, 2-0 first half hole before 20 minutes.
Although it was Coria who fired the game’s first shot – a half volley off a Chris Tierney corner kick in the opening minutes – it was Columbus who opened up the scoring. In the 16th minute, a Robbie Rogers free kick found Anor in the penalty area, where the striker nodded the ball into the back of the net.
A minute later, Columbus added a second when a back-pass from Soares was intercepted by Tom Heinemann who chipped Reis and scored.
Faced with a two-goal deficit, the Revolution desperately searched for offensive opportunities. Their best chance of the half came in the 33rd minute when Ryan Kinne hit a through ball into the path of Ilija Stolica. The Serbian striker took a touch and opened up space for a shot, but his effort sailed high over the crossbar.
Unlike their previous encounter with the Crew last Sunday, Nicol did not make a single substitution at the interval, as Soares and Coria remained on the field for the second half.
In the 53rd minute, Heinemann scored Columbus’ third off a cross from Anor. Heinemann’s goal was his third of the week – and all at the hands of the Revolution.
New England finally answered in the 62nd minute when Zack Schilawski laid a ball off to Stolica, who fired a shot into the roof of the net for his first goal of preseason.
Columbus nearly reclaimed their three-goal advantage in the 88th minute when Heinemann, hunting for the hat-trick, headed a Justin Meram cross off the post.
The Revolution will have a chance to end their preseason fixture list on a better note come Sunday afternoon when they take on the Houston Dynamo.