Sunday, the New England Revolution advanced to the MLS Eastern Conference Championship over the Columbus Crew and set a new MLS record with a whopping seven goals in the two-leg, aggregate-goal playoff series.
New England defeated the Columbus Crew 3-1, 7-3 on aggregate, in the playoff series and will now face the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Championship. It’s the first time the Revolution have reached the Conference Championship since 2007.
An enthusiastic 20,184 fans came out to Gillette Stadium to cheer their team on to the overwhelming victory.
It was a tough night for the Crew, who seemed unprepared for this level of play. Columbus finished the game with nine men after Ethan Finlay was shown a harsh red card in the 61st minute for a tangle with goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who finished the game with six saves. Justin Meram was ejected with his second yellow card in the 85th minute for a nasty tackle on Kevin Alston.
MLS MVP candidate Lee Nguyen, assisted by Teal Bunbury, stepped up yet again with the first goal of the match – and his second playoff goal – just before the break. Nguyen has scored in each of his last six games. The talented forward now has 20 goals in all competitions this season and is the first Revolution player to score 20 in a single year since Taylor Twellman (23) in 2007.
Ten minutes after the break, Jose Goncalves doubled New England’s lead to 2-0 with a left-footed shot that resulted in his first postseason goal. Both Nguyen and Charlie Davies were credited with assists on that important strike. The Crew’s Tony Tchani cut the difference in half in the 69th minute, heading in a Justin Meram free kick. Bunbury scored New England’s third goal in the 77th minute with a left-footed shot after capitalizing on a pass from Daigo Kobayashi for the Revolution’s 3-1 win and 7-3 series victory.
“I think we don’t have it in ourselves to sit back and try to bunker in,” said Nguyen. “We’re a much better team when we try to go and win it and press other teams and create turnovers in their half.”
The Revolution have been steadily improving in the second half of the season and are 8-0-1 in their last nine home games in all competitions, outscoring opponents 18-6. Much credit goes to head coach Jay Heaps, who has finally hit his stride since taking over the team.
No Revolution players were booked in the game, so that Jose Goncalves is the only player on yellow card warning heading into the first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship. If the key defender is issued a yellow card in that game, he will be forced to sit out the second leg of that series.
The Revolution will face the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Championship with the winner of the two-leg, aggregate-goal series advancing to MLS Cup 2014. The first leg of that series will be played at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. on Sunday, November 23. The return leg will be played at Gillette Stadium on either November 29 or November 30.
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NE – Lee Nguyen 2 (Teal Bunbury 1) 43’
NE – Jose Goncalves 1 (Charlie Davies 1, Lee Nguyen 2) 53’
CLB – Tony Tchani 1 (Justin Meram 1) 69’
NE – Teal Bunbury 1 (Daigo Kobayashi 1) 77’
CLB – Ethan Finlay (Red Card) 61’
CLB – Justin Meram (Yellow Card) 66’
CLB – Justin Meram (Yellow Card/Red Card) 85’
New England Revolution: Bobby Shuttleworth; Kevin Alston, Jose Goncalves © (Andy Dorman 79’), A.J. Soares, Chris Tierney; Jermaine Jones, Scott Caldwell; Teal Bunbury, Lee Nguyen (Daigo Kobayashi 75’), Kelyn Rowe; Charlie Davies.
Substitutes Not Used: Brad Knighton, Darrius Barnes, Steve Neumann, Diego Fagundez, Patrick Mullins
STATS: Shots 15, Shots on target 10, Saves 6, Corner kicks 4, Offsides 2, Fouls 8, Possession 46.0%, Passes 354 (76.6%)
Columbus Crew: Steve Clark; Eric Gehrig (Josh Williams 56’), Michael Parkhurst ©, Tyson Wahl (Adam Bedell 46’), Waylon Francis; Ethan Finlay (Sent Off 61’), Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Justin Meram; Hector Jimenez; Jairo Arrieta (Ben Spears 74’).
Substitutes Not Used: Matt Lampson, Emanuel Pogatetz, Chad Barson, Kevan George
STATS: Shots 17, Shots on target 7, Saves 7, Corner kicks 5, Offsides 2, Fouls 12, Possession 54.0%, Passes 400 (77.8%)
Referee: Armando Villarreal
Assistant Referees: Peter Manikowski (AR1) and Corey Parker (AR2)
Fourth Official: Chris Penso