COLUMBUS, Ohio — Facing each other for the second time already in this young season, the Columbus Crew and New England Revolution picked right up from where they left off last month in a chippy game that ended with a 1-0 Crew victory.
The first half featured 17 total fouls and three yellow cards. Revolution captain Michael Mancienne earned the first card in the ninth minute after a hard tackle. Crew defender Jonathan Mensah repaid the favor in the 20th minute with a very similar tackle. Then Revs forward Juan Agudelo picked up the final yellow of the first half during stoppage time after stepping in front of a Crew free kick.
Offense was limited early on due to the physical play. Despite both teams having some prime chances in open play, the only goal came from a set piece. Columbus had a free kick on the left side of the box and Federico Higuain sent the ball in to a waiting Josh Williams, who flicked it effortlessly into the goal. The assist on the play makes Higuain tied with former Columbus players and coach Robert Warzycha for the most assists in Crew history with 61.
”I thought [Higuain] was special tonight,” Crew head coach Caleb Porter said, “every time he got the ball, I thought ‘it’s gonna be a goal’…he had a couple passes today that were world class…He’s got more years left to play on my team. I’m not letting him go. He’s got so much quality. He’s one of the best players this league has ever seen.”
Higuain was humble when discussing his club record.
”I’m happy for what we are doing this season,” Higuain said, “I know I’m on a good team…I know my first coach, my second coach, and now the third…they believe in what they do. My teammates, it’s always about my teammates. I don’t understand this game in a different way. It’s eleven guys against eleven guys.”
Outside of the set piece, the Revolution defense was strong. Goalkeeper Cody Cropper played dangerously, coming off of his line frequently to make stops. At one point, he even came all the way out to midfield to chase down a ball. Revs defender Jalil Anibaba also had some great defensive moments, diving and stopping a pinpoint cross from Hector Jimenez that would’ve surely led to a shot on goal.
Offensively, the only New England shot on a goal was a distance strike from Anibaba that forced Zack Steffen to make a diving save.
The physicality continued in the second half. Higuain picked up a yellow card in the 54th minute for a late tackle. Ten minutes later, the Revolution put the nail in their own coffin when Mancienne laid out Higuain on a hard tackle that could’ve been a straight red, but resulted in a second yellow and an ejection all the same. New England was down to 10 men and never recovered.
”That’s the type of game that happens a little bit in the way that they play,” Porter said, “they gave us some problems by pressing us, but we wore them down in the second half.”
The Revs did not record another shot on goal, and the Crew held on for the victory. Columbus ended up committing 16 fouls, their highest total of the season. The second highest? 13, also against the New England Revolution. When informed of that stat, Porter simply smiled and said “nice.”
The shutout brings Steffen’s streak with no goals conceded to 444 minutes. He can again break into the top-10 longest shutout streaks in MLS history next week against the Montreal Impact. He would become just the third keeper to hold two spots on the list, joining Nick Rimando and Kevin Hartman.