The Revolution scored the first goal of their playoff series against the Columbus Crew Saturday night. Though the Revolution extended a four-match home winning streak and broke the Crew's unbeaten streaks of 18 straight league games and nine straight on the road with their 1-0 victory, they believe the next goal will be the most important.
The total-goal series concludes in Columbus, Ohio, next Sunday. The Revolution would advance to the Eastern Conference final with at least a tie. If the teams are tied on total goals, the winner will be decided by a 30-minute overtime, followed by penalty kicks, if necessary.
A Revolution opening score would extend their advantage to two goals in what is essentially a 180-minute game extended over an eight-day period. A Crew opening goal could shift the momentum, possibly intensifying the home-field advantage.
"The first goal was important for us," Revolution striker Taylor Twellman said of Avery John's 25th-minute strike. "It's going to be tough in Columbus, but we'll do whatever it takes to win. They know what they are going to get. We are going to work hard and make it a scrappy game."
It was the fourth straight time the Revolution have converted the opening goal of an MLS playoff series, indicating they have devised an effective way of approaching the postseason. In fact, the Revolution have trailed in regulation time in only one playoff game in the last three seasons. New England also lost on the final kick in two sudden-death overtime matches.
The Revolution did not perform like underdogs against the Crew, though they slipped into the playoffs with the lowest point total in the league, reinforcing their reputation as a team that reaches peak performances this time of year. The Revolution, 5-3-4 in playoff games since 2002, clearly perform best under pressure.
"We would have liked to score more goals, but the fact that we got the win, it's a good result," midfielder Steve Ralston said. "We got the early goal and almost had a couple more on counterattacks. If we get a draw, we go through, so we are pleased. They are good opponents and they have a lot of firepower, so we needed to protect the lead and that is something we have gotten better at in the second half of the season.
"Our forwards held the ball and that allowed us to get forward. We also made good challenges [in the penalty area] and defended well on set pieces."
The Crew long have been struggling to overcome a reputation as underachievers, and Columbus's excellent regular season has helped change that perception, especially after failing to qualify for the 2003 playoffs. Columbus has lost three of four playoff series since 1999.
But roles could change in Game 2. The Crew present some of the league's most dynamic offensive players, and the defense has been settled with newcomers Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall, and Tony Sanneh in front of goalkeeper Jon Busch.
"It would have been great to win 7-, 8-, or 9-nil," Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. "But that was never going to happen. We are a nose in front and that is all it is. We have to go there and do another job. We will approach the game exactly like we did this one, solid and hungry. The team wants to show that it is made of better stuff than the record showed."