Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) – Two of the hottest teams in Major League
Soccer square off at Crew Stadium on Saturday as the Columbus Crew plays host
to the New England Revolution in the first leg of their Eastern Conference
The Crew return to the postseason for the first time since 2011 after
finishing third in the Eastern Conference, while the Revs have now made the
playoffs in back-to-back seasons after a three-year hiatus.
New England finished second in the Eastern Conference, three points clear of
Columbus, and the club closed the season with a 9-1-1 record over its final 11
games, making the Revs one of the favorites to emerge from the East.
Last season New England was eliminated at this stage by eventual champions
Sporting Kansas City, but that experience is something the team can lean on as
it prepares for its postseason return.
Seven of the 11 players who started against Sporting in the first leg last
year had never appeared in a playoff game, while Revs head coach Jay Heaps was
also taking part in his first postseason match as a coach.
“We learned a lot from last year and the team’s very similar to last year,”
said New England defender Kevin Alston. “We have more players who’ve gotten
that playoff experience and I think that will really help us be comfortable
when the time comes to play.”
Despite the inexperience, the Revs had a one-goal lead in the second leg and
were 11 minutes from advancing to the conference final before a goal from
Sporting’s Seth Sinovic tied the match, while SKC ultimately won in extra
“We were able to hang in there with Kansas City last year. We were that close
– maybe a couple minutes away and it could’ve been the other way around,” said
midfielder Lee Nguyen who is one of the front runners for MLS Most Valuable
Player this season after notching 18 goals and five assists. “Then they ended
up going all the way to win MLS Cup.
“That’s confidence going into this playoffs, knowing that we have the quality
now. With a little bit more depth (this year), we can take it all the way if
we want to.”
New England has been in great form over the past few months, and with the club
having won its last six games at Gillette Stadium, which is the site of the
return leg on Sunday, Nov. 9, the Crew will need a good outing at home on
In three meetings between the Crew and Revs this season, Columbus won the
first two while New England claimed three points in the most recent encounter,
with all three games being decided by one goal.
The Crew is also in the midst of a good run of form having gone 10-3-2 in the
final 15 matches of the regular season, so this two-legged series figures to
Columbus has just one player on its roster, winger Hector Jimenez, who has won
an MLS Cup, but the team has plenty of championship experience on its
technical staff with Gregg Berhalter, Pat Onstad and Josh Wolff combining to
win the title five times during their playing careers.
That kind of experience on the bench is something the Crew will hope benefits
the team when things get tough in the playoffs, which is likely to be the case
in this series with New England.
“We’ve had a fun series in the regular season, we’ve created what feels to me
like a mini rivalry,” said Crew defender Tyson Wahl. “We’ve had some great
games, some competitive games. It’s a team that we respect and we know they
are good, but we are also confident that we can beat them and we aren’t scared
to play against them.”