The Columbus Crew lost 1-0 to the New England Revolution on Sunday afternoon, capping a disappointing season with a three-game losing streak that took the team out of playoff contention. Columbus held a significant edge in most statistical categories, but a patchwork attack without Designated Player Federico Higuain was only rarely able to trouble Matt Reis.
The loss leaves the Crew with 41 points and a 12-17-5 (W-L-T) record. They finish the season in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. If Major League Soccer used the single-table format popular elsewhere around the world, the club would be 16th of 19 teams.
The Crew's best shot of the day came in the third minute. Dominic Oduro picked off a pass at the Revolution defense and broke on goal, but his shot was parried up and over the goal by goalkeeper Matt Reis.
The Revolution, needing a win in order to secure their first playoff berth in four years, were content to rely on the defensive organization that has been their signature this season. The Crew enjoyed a 3:1 edge in possession for significant portions of the game, but were rarely able to breach the New England back line - forced to pass around the midfield and defense looking for an opening.
New England scored midway through the first half. A 1-2 combination of Juan Agudelo and Lee Nguyen left Agudelo with an easy tap-in, which only reinforced both teams' tendencies.
Columbus made three changes in the opening stages of the second half. Ben Speas and Ryan Finley were sent on in the first ten minutes, relieving apparent injuries to Bernardo Anor and Aaron Schoenfeld. Rather than shaking loose the New England defense, however, the additions destabilized the Columbus attack.
Justin Meram completed the Crew substitutions in the 72nd minute - replacing Agustin Viana as the Crew pressed forward with ever more abandon. Meram had easily the most impact of any of the substitutes, with several key defensive stops and runs up the left flank. Ultimately, however, even the Michigan product was unable to produce the goal that home fans desperately wanted.
Dominic Oduro provided the game's last bit of fireworks, earning a red card after a vicious kick on New England midfielder Kelyn Rowe. The ensuing eight minutes of stoppage time were haphazard, the Crew's offensive cohesion a casualty of tired legs and increasing desperation.
What it means
The Crew head into their second consecutive offseason without a playoff appearance. New England, meanwhile, returns to the postseason after missing out the last three years.
Columbus is in the midst of hiring a permanent replacement for Robert Warzycha. The team has stated a goal of announcing the successful candidate in November. Interim coach Brian Bliss remains in contention, but a long list of prominent candidates has been mentioned in connection with the position, including former league MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
The team also has to decide whether to extend new contracts to a trio of players: Dominic Oduro, Andy Gruenebaum and Josh Williams will all see their current contracts expire at the end of December.
Timeline of events
4' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - headed over by Anor)
25' Caution, Jairo Arrieta (dangerous tackle on Diego Fagundez)
28' 0-1 Juan Agudelo (Lee Nguyen)
50' Ben Speas replaces Bernardo Anor
54' Ryan Finley replaces Aaron Schoenfeld
57' Caution, Agustin Viana (professional foul on Dimitry Imbongo)
60' Corner kick, New England (left side - headed high)
61' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - shot mis-hit by Speas)
70' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - cleared)
71' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - caught by Reis)
72' Justin Meram replaces Agustin Viana
74' Darrius Barnes replaces Kevin Alston
78' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - cleared)
79' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - cleared)
80' Scott Caldwell replaces Dimitry Imbongo
83' Caution, Matt Reis (delay of game)
89' Caution, Juan Agudelo (unsportsmanlike conduct on Tyson Wahl)
80' Ejection, Dominic Oduro (professional foul on Kelyn Rowe)
93' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - flicked wide)
96' Corner kick, New England (left side - short, lost)
Andy Gruenebaum, Josh Williams, Chad Marshall, Tyson Wahl, Agustin Viana (Justin Meram 72'), Wil Trapp, Dominic Oduro, Tony Tchani, Bernardo Anor (Ben Speas 50'), Aaron Schoenfeld (Ryan Finley 54'), Jairo Arrieta
Matt Lampson, Chad Barson, Danny O'Rourke, Ethan Finlay
New England Revolution
Matt Reis, Kevin Alston (Darrius Barnes 74'), Jose Goncalves, A.J. Soares, Andrew Farrell, Andy Dorman, Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Juan Agudelo, Dimitry Imbongo (Scott Caldwell 80')
Bobby Shuttleworth, Chad Barrett, Jerry Bengtson, Charlie Davies, McCarthy