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Revolution beat Columbus, punch playoff ticket

Posted by Julian Cardillo  October 27, 2013 03:59 PM

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The New England Revolution are going to the playoffs.

They secured their ninth post-season appearance in team history by beating the Columbus Crew 1-0 in Columbus, OH on Sunday evening in the last game of the regular season. Juan Agudelo's seventh goal of the year was the difference for the Revolution, who have earned their first playoff berth since 2009.

In the 27th minute of the game, Agudelo took control of possession outside the penalty area and sent the ball to the right side of the box to Lee Nguyen. Nguyen immediately passed back to Agudelo, who sent a low drive into the back of the net past Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.

The Revolution, who have been in a season-long race with five different teams for the fourth and fifth playoff spots in the conference, will finish third in the standings. That's surprising, as they haven't been higher than fourth place all season.

The Revolution will play second-ranked Sporting Kansas City in the two-game, home-and-away Conference Semifinals. The first game will be at Gillette Stadium on either Nov. 2 or 3. New York defeated Chicago 5-2 on Sunday too. That result gave New York the Supporters Shield, the award for the league's best season record, and allowed the Revolution to clinch third place.

New England will enter next weekend's clash with Kansas City on a hot streak. They're on a six-game unbeaten run, have accumulated their second-highest season point total in team history, and completed a full, 3-0-0 sweep of the Columbus Crew.

Against Columbus on Sunday, the Revolution relied heavily on their goalkeeper and defense.

Matt Reis, who ends his 16th season in MLS with an unbeaten 7-0-4 record, confidently commanded his back line and made four saves to keep the Revolution's playoff hopes alive.

He palmed a close-range shor by Dominic Oduro over the crossbar in the third minute after Oduro gained possession outside the penalty area after a giveaway by AJ Soares. But his biggest save came in the 78th minute when he dove to tip away a low drive by Bernardo Anor, who was in alone on Reis off a left-footed cross by Justin Meram.

The Revolution's back line stayed true to the resolute form that has ushered it through the regular season, too. An injury to Chris Tierney (ankle) forced Revolution coach Jay Heaps to go with Kevin Alston at left back. But the makeshift back line was able to close out the win and notch the club's 14th shutout of the regular season.

Agudelo's game-winning goal was against the run of play, but the Revolution came close to scoring multiple times. Andy Dorman flicked a freekick by Kelyn Rowe inches wide of the far post (15th) and Nguyen had a shot on a breakaway tipped wide by Gruenebaum in the second half stoppage time.

The match was a physical midfield battle between two teams who needed to make a statement. The Revolution entered the match needing nothing less than a victory to make the playoffs. Columbus were looking to end the season on a high note by winning their first game since Sept. 29 and spoiling New England's playoff hopes.

Tempers flared. Five players were booked by referee Hilario Grajeda including Oduro, who was red carded in second half stoppage time for a hard tackle on Rowe. That decision wasted a large chunk of the eight minutes of time that were added to the end of the game for substitutions.

Depth has played a big part in the Revolution's success this season and did so again on Sunday. In addition to Alston fitting in for Tierney, Dorman played in central midfield for Scott Caldwell and played a tight two-way game, making the necessary clearances on defense and orchestrating possession in central midfield.

Darrius Barnes made his sixth appearance of the season as well, coming on for an injured Alston in the 74th minute.

Alston's prognosis remains to be seen, though team captain Jose Goncalves, Rowe, and Agudelo all took hard hits in the game. That trio of players played the entirety of the game, though they all stayed down on the turf for a significant amount of time after sustaining their injuries. It's still too early to say what their statuses will be for next weekend's game.

As for tonight, the Revolution will celebrate this long-awaited achievement.

If you want to reach Julian email him at julianccardillo@gmail.com and follow him on twitter @juliancardillo

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Corner Kicks: Julian Cardillo offers insight and analysis about the New England Revolution as well as European and international soccer.

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