Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution | MLS Cup Playoffs Match Preview
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS - FIRST LEG
COLUMBUS CREW vs NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Sat., Nov. 1, Columbus Crew Stadium (4 p.m. ET; UDN, CSN-NE, TWCSC-OH, MLS LIVE)
The Columbus Crew and New England Revolution kick off their Eastern Conference Semifinals series in the first postseason game at Crew Stadium in five seasons when the clubs meet Saturday afternoon. The Crew are back in the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T, for the first time since 2011 -- when they fell in a Knockout Round game at the Colorado Rapids. The Revolution come into the game with home-field advantage in the series following their second-place finish in the East. It's a series matching two of the hotter teams down the stretch -- the Crew finished the regular season on a three-game winning streak, while the Revs are undefeated in their last five.
NE 21 wins (1 SO), 80 goals … CLB 31 wins (4 SO), 97 goals … Ties 11
NE 1 win, 3 GF … CLB 2 wins, 4 GF … 0 ties
AT CREW STADIUM:
9/20: CLB 1, NE 0 (Higuain 48)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS:
NE 2 wins, 5 GF … CLB 0 wins, 3 GF … 3 ties
REFEREE: Drew Fischer
AR1 (bench): Joe Fletcher
AR2 (opposite): Claudio Badea
4th: Fotis Bazakos
- The Crew come into the postseason as one of the hottest teams in MLS -- winners of three in a row (matching their three-game winning streak to start the season), and with just one loss over their last eight matches.
- "We have guys like Hector [Jimenez] and Michael [Parkhurst] who have been there, and that will help the guys such as myself who have not made the playoffs," said goalkeeper Steve Clark. There is good and bad with [playoff inexperience]. People are going to say that we have a lot of inexperience, but at the same time, we are just going to go about it like we have the entire season."
- Jairo Arrieta started his first league game since July 12 in the season finale -- and netted his second goal in the last three games. "That was another idea ... let’s get him firing on all cylinders and certainly the goal is going to give him confidence. He made a big impact last time in the game against the Philadelphia Union and he had another big impact," said Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter.
- Federico Higuain was held out of the lineup, the second game he's missed in the final three of the season. Ben Speas filled the attacking midfield role and collected his third assist of the season.
- "We had a goal and it was to win the game. I’m proud of the guys for grinding it out," said Berhalter. "It certainly wasn’t our best performance but on a day when you chose to rest Federico Higuain and make couple of other changes, I think that it was great that we got the victory."
- Bernardo Anor came off the substitutes' bench after back-to-back starts in the back four -- and scored the match-winning goal, his sixth of the season. Anor had six goals combined in his first three MLS campaigns.
- "It’s fitting that he scored the goal but we also want to get him game time. So we wanted to reduce the load of one player and get Bernardo Anor minutes because he needs to maintain his rhythm," said Berhalter. "Aaron Schoenfeld has had a high work load as well and he has been doing well lately but we’re focused on the playoffs and we’re ready to get him 100 percent rested to focus on the playoffs."
- The Crew are also undefeated in their last six games at Crew Stadium as they make their first postseason appearance in three years. "The past 2-1/2 months we have been excellent at home. We are going to ride that wave," said Steve Clark.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
- The Revolution are also one of the hottest teams in the league, undefeated in their last five games, and with a 9-1-2 mark since early August -- the only loss the 1-0 defeat at Columbus on Sept. 20.
- “It’s good to go with a win to the playoffs. I can only talk from the time I come, but we lose only one game to Columbus," said Jermaine Jones. "We battled Kansas City, we battled Columbus here at home. We showed the whole league that everybody has to respect us. If not we will make it hard in games."
- Lee Nguyen scored his 18th goal of the season, his fourth in the last three games, and his ninth game-winning goal of the year in the season finale. His 18 goals are the most in the league by a non-forward. Nguyen has scored each of the Revolution's last four goals.
- "He’s just been really good. He’s finished all his chances, he hasn’t missed many," said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. "But it’s not just what he does inside the other teams 18, it’s the way he plays, the way he defends, the way he picks up second balls. He’s collecting the ball at midfield and the second he gets it he’s creating space and options for everybody. He dictates a lot of the game and our break when we’re trying to get forward."
- Diego Fagundez made his first start since Sept. 20 in the season finale, while Andy Dorman came off the substitutes' bench for his first appearance since July 12.
- "Diego is someone we need. He’s a firepower for us, he’s elusive and he finds gaps. He’s a player that we want going forward. At any moment he can score a goal and he can score three goals. I think when you have to defend that teams have to be mindful of him and mark him," said Heaps.
- The Revolution also extended their home winning streak to six games in the season finale, and their home undefeated run to eight games.
- “It’s so important going into the playoffs to not concede home goals. We really wanted to shore that up. I thought our defense was really good,” said Heaps. Said goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth: “It’s been a while since we’ve gotten one. It’s kind of perfect to get one going into the playoffs. That’s what we need to do at home.”