FOXBORO, Mass.- With their post-season hopes on the line, the Revolution defeated the Columbus Crew 3-2 in a seesaw battle at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.. A season-high crowd of 26,458 watched as AJ Soares, Chris Tierney, and Diego Fagundez all scored to off-set goals from Columbus' Dominic Oduro and Aaron Schoenfeld.
The Crew equalized two times. But for the Revolution, the third goal was the charm.
"Both teams risked a lot for the win," said Revolution coach Jay Heaps. "That's why the game was wide open. Credit Columbus. They had an excellent second half and every time we seemed to step ahead, they pounded back."
Andy Dorman made his first start since March 16, filling in for a suspended Lee Nguyen, and assisted on the decisive strike. In the 76th minute, he collected possession on the left side of the penalty area and squared the ball to Fagundez, who poked the feed into the back of the net past a helpless Matt Lampson for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.
"The bigger the crowd, the bigger the moment, Diego rises to the occasion," added Heaps. "He never gets silent...He gets quiet and we couldn't find him in that transition break but he just kept going and he just knows how to score when he gets some time."
That goal eliminated the Crew from playoff contention while keeping the Revolution's chances alive. New England, who are currently in the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, will play their last game of the season next weekend at Columbus.
On Saturday, four goals were scored in a 17-minute span in the second half. That contrasted greatly with a first half that was completely dominated by the Revolution. New England out-shot Columbus 6-1 in the first stanza and controlled over half the possession.
Soares became the 12th Revolution player to score a goal this season when he headed in a freekick by Kelyn Rowe in the 32nd minute. Dorman was involved in that goal, too, as he drew the foul to earn the set piece. Rowe picked out Soares with a right-footed cross, his eighth assist of the season.
"It's already playoff atmosphere, we had to get to win," said Soares. "I want to score all the time. It was all about the ball. Kelyn Rowe put the ball perfect, I didn't have to do much."
The Revolution had to count on their various goalscorers as the game wore on. At halftime, Columbus substituted Schoenfeld for Ethan Finlay, a switch which changed the game.
Schoenfeld added energy, pace, and made the key pass in the final third. All of that was missing with Finlay on the field and it changed Columbus into a more dangerous team.
Schoenfeld's first contribution was assisting on Oduro's goal in the 59th minute. He sent the ball into space on the right side of the penalty area, Oduro running onto the pass and firing a shot over the hands of Matt Reis and into the goal for his 13th strike of the season.
With their post-season lives on the line, the Revolution pressed forward. In the 68th minute, Rowe ran into the penalty area, rounded Lampson, and managed to get the ball to Dorman, who was only yards from the near post. Dorman took one touch before Tony Tchani dragged him down in the box, prompting referee Mark Geiger to award a penalty kick.
Without Nguyen, the Revolution's usual penalty kick taker, Tierney stepped up to take the shot. Tierney was one for one on penalty kicks until that point, as he scored in the shootout of the 2008 Superliga final against Houston. Tierney would convert from the spot again, left-footing a low drive past a diving Lampson at the left post.
The Revolution's second lead wouldn't stand, however. The Crew equalized again via Schoenfeld, who quieted the crowd with a volley from the top of the box that flew into the upper corner of the net past a diving Reis in the 71st minute.
It was Fagundez who would be the hero. At halftime, an announcement came over the stadium PA system that he had been voted the team's season MVP. A few minutes before the end of the game, Fagundez showed why he deserved that honor with a goal that keeps the Revolution's season alive. Dorman gift-wrapped the pass on the play, but it was Fagundez' positioning in front of the net that made the finish easy.
"You have to be there at the right moment. Something might not go your way and all of a sudden you get a goal. Andy told me, 'it's going to be one-timer' so look at him he plays the ball into the box, and it's first-time."
"I wasn't expecting at such a young age to get named MVP of the team," said Fagundez. "I'm very glad and thankful for the fans."
After Fagundez' goal, the Revolution re-grouped. Tierney sat down on the turf and clutched his right ankle, prompting Geiger to bring medical support onto the field. Tierney left the game for Kevin Alston, but the break in play allowed the Revolution to mentally prepare themselves for the final minutes of the game.
Heaps tried to further bolster his team's lead by making bringing on Stephen McCarthy for Scott Caldwell in the 80th minute. Adding McCarthy gave the Revolution a full foot in height to defend against the Crew's more direct play. And though McCarthy has played in defense for the last two seasons, he entered the league as a midfielder out of North Carolina. McCarthy did fine bossing the center of the pitch alongside Dorman to close out the lead.
Matt Reis, who has yet to lose a game this season, finished the game with five saves. And the Revolution, who are now on a five-game unbeaten run, are clicking at the right time.
If they win at Columbus next weekend in the regular season finale, they'll have a decent chance of clinching their first playoff berth since 2009. Entering the post-season on a positive run could be key.
"We want to make the playoffs," added Fagundez. "Every player knows the number one thing is making the playoffs. We need points right now and we have one more game where we play them again so we're going to go in there and fight them again."
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