FOXBOROUGH -- Shalrie Joseph set an aggressive tone for the Revolution as they took the lead over Columbus with a 1-0 victory in the opener of their Major League Soccer playoff series last Saturday. Joseph, who has emerged as one of the top defensive midfielders in the league, stymied Simon Elliott with a hard tackle in the fourth minute. Joseph was cautioned by referee Michael Kennedy, Elliott departed briefly, and the Revolution continued to win tackles.
Joseph also provided distribution and possession, rarely failing to win the ball or make an advantageous offensive move.
"We wanted to be more physical and win every 50-50 ball and individual battle," Joseph said. "That first tackle in the first minutes showed this was the playoffs and it was going to be a war. I got in late on the tackle but I don't think I deserved a yellow card. That means I will have to be careful not to get another one."
The Revolution's Avery John (who scored the winning goal) and Jay Heaps and Columbus's Edson Buddle and Robin Fraser were also cautioned. If those players are yellow-carded again in today's match at Crew Stadium, they would risk a suspension for the Eastern Conference final against D.C. United, which beat the MetroStars, 2-0, last night, and won that series, 4-0.
Joseph has been among the Revolution's most consistent performers this season, playing several matches with a broken nose in April and May, then recovering from a hip flexor and knee strain while playing for Grenada in World Cup qualifying. Joseph has failed to win in two visits to Crew Stadium this season, with Grenada losing to the US (3-0) and with the Revolution in a 1-1 tie. Joseph missed the Revolution's 1-0 loss to the Crew in Columbus because of suspension.
"We are going to have to send a message again in this game," Joseph said. "Either me or Clint [Dempsey] or the defenders are going to have to let them know we are going to tackle and win 50-50 balls."
The Revolution also displayed a smoother passing game against the Crew, quickly moving the ball and maintaining possession. Joseph credited the improvement to training sessions on the Gillette Stadium practice field, a change from the Wrentham State School, where the Revolution spent most of the regular season.
"We pinged the ball around and played as a team in the first half," Joseph said. "In the playoffs, you have to raise the level of your game a notch. Each individual has to step up his game."
Columbus concluded the regular season with an MLS-record 18-game unbeaten streak, a year after failing to qualify for the playoffs. The Crew were strengthened by adding Fraser to central defense and Elliott to defensive midfield, both providing veteran leadership. The Revolution are relying on younger talent in those positions: Joseph, 26, and Dempsey, 21, in defensive midfield, and Rusty Pierce, 25, and John, 29, in central defense.
The Revolution squeezed into the playoffs with a 3-2-0 record in their final five matches, edging Chicago for the final spot.
"It was a scary situation at the end of the season and a lot of things happened," Joseph said. "But we showed we were going to fight and that we don't give up, and that goes for the coaching staff and players who believe in themselves."
The Revolution require at least a tie to win the two-game, total-goal series. If the Crew win by a goal today, the series will be decided by a 30-minute overtime, followed by penalty kicks, if needed.
The Revolution are 2-5-0 in road playoff matches since first advancing to the postseason in 1997. They have won two of their last three road playoff matches, losing to Chicago in overtime (1-0) in the semifinals last year.