It was a roller coaster night for both Columbus Crew fans and players on Saturday. The New England Revolution took an early 2-0 lead, but Columbus fought back to go up 3-2 before the half. With ten minutes remaining, the Revs tied the game from a penalty kick. However, the Crew never gave up and retook the lead in the 85th minute, holding on for a 4-3 victory and three valuable points in the playoff race.
With the win and a D.C. United loss, Columbus moved within four points of the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Crew’s record improved to 10-8-6 (36 points), while New England’s dropped to 6-14-5 (23 points).
Depending on how you look at it, the Crew lined up in a 4-2-3-1, 4-4-1-1, or 4-4-2 last night. The back four of Sebastian Miranda, Carlos Mendes, Chad Marshall, and Josh Williams remained the same from previous games. Danny O’Rourke, starting in place of Chris Birchall, lined up next to Milovan Mirosevic in the holding midfielder spot. Eddie Gaven and Dilly Duka patrolled the wings, and Federico Higuain roamed in the center of the field right behind Jairo Arrieta. The Revolution lined up in a 4-4-2.
New England were the early aggressors. Ryan Guy had the first good opportunity of the game, but his open header in the 10th minute went just wide of the post. Minutes later, Guy gave the Revolution the lead with a beautiful left-footed strike. Saer Sene laid the ball of to Guy at the top right corner of the box, and Guy ripped a one-time shot that bent straight into the top-left corner after a slight deflection.
It only took six more minutes before the Revolution doubled their lead. Benny Feilhaber played Jerry Bengtson in on goal after a bad offside trap attempt by Columbus. Goalie Andy Gruenebaum came out of the box to challenge Bengtson, but Bengtson’s touch went around the Crew keeper. Bengtson collected himself and passed the ball into the empty net, nicking the left post on its way in.
The Crew didn’t wait long to pull one back. In the 26th minute, Eddie Gaven earned a free kick near the center of the field. Federico Higuain stepped up and bent the ball up and over the wall, getting it down just in time to go in near the top-right corner of the goal.
Milovan Mirosevic’s almost no-look, looping through ball pass to Jairo Arrieta equalized the game in the 32nd minute. Arrieta took a controlling touch before blasting the ball with his left foot straight into the top-left corner, beating Matt Reis at the near post.
But Columbus weren’t done yet, and Higuain wasn’t content going into the break tied. In the 43rd minute, Higuain struck another beautiful free kick. This one was located slightly more left than the other, so Higuain simply bent the ball around the wall and into the left side netting, beating a diving Reis. The goal was the Crew’s third of the match; the first time they have scored more than twice in a game all season.
The second half started off quite a bit slower than the first. Homegrown goalie Matt Lampson was substituted in for Andy Gruenebaum after Gruenebaum picked up a lower-back injury and couldn’t carry on.
In the 80th minute, Diego Fagundez received a long ball and backed his way into the box. Julius James had his left arm wrapped around Fagundez as he went down. While it was a rather weak tackle, there was almost no way the referee could not have called a penalty. Lee Nguyen stepped up and placed the ball into the right side netting as Lampson dove the other direction, tying the game.
However, Jairo Arrieta was not to be outdone by his forward partner. In the 86th minute, Mirosevic headed a throw in to Tony Tchani. Tchani played a looping pass to Arrieta as he got behind the Revolution’s defense. Arrieta let the ball bounce before hitting home a half volley past Reis and into the right side of the net. The goal gave Columbus the lead once again, 4-3.
Arrieta almost completed his birthday hat trick in the waning minutes, but his shot went just wide of the post. New England were unable to conjure up any late-game magic due to Matt Lampson, and the match ended in the Crew’s favor, greatly increasing their chances of making the playoffs.