As the two seed, the New England Revolution came into the first leg of their Eastern Conference Semi-Final clash with the Columbus Crew as favorites, if only by a slim margin. They were the away team, after all, and Columbus was the other hottest team in MLS.
The odds-makers had better re-evaluate their methods, then, because the Revs just went to Columbus and tore the Crew to shreds with a 4-2 victory. Charlie Davies lead the way with two goals, sandwiching tallies from Chris Tierney and Lee Nguyen. Justin Meram scored the Crew's first, and a sloppy penalty in second-half stoppage time conceded by Jose Goncalves handed another goal to Federico Higuain.
New England dominated the chances early, going close several times, but the story of the first half was how chippy it was. From the start, bodies were flying, challenges were crunching, and the officiating crew had serious difficulties with getting control of the match.
Davies first goal came in the 34th minute after the Revs earned a foul in a dangerous position. Kelyn Rowe's delivery was drilled on a slicing line into the box toward the far post, and Davies somehow got himself completely free and unmarked with the Crew defense frozen. All he had to do was put a perfect diving header on the ball and it was 1-0.
A set-piece produced the second goal as well, this one in the 51st minute. Another foul in a dangerous spot saw Nguyen and Chris Tierney standing over the ball. Nguyen dummied over it before Tierney stepped up and whipped a beautiful curling free kick into the top near-post corner with no chance for Clark to make the save.
Justin Meram pulled one back for the Crew in the 64th minute, capping off some extended pressure from the home side. Wil Trapp collected a clearing header from A.J. Soares at the side of the box and played a simple lateral ball to an unmarked Meram near the penalty spot, who calmly put it away.
New England took almost no time at all to reassert their advantage. Lee Nguyen got on the ball inside his own half and took off down the middle of the pitch uncontested for about 60 yards before turning Tyson Wahl and slapping a low roller past Clark and inside the far post to make it 3-1.
Finally, it was the ever-dangerous Davies who put the exclamation point on the victory in the 81st. He also got on the ball almost in his own half and took off down the middle, with acres of space before him after Columbus had committed numbers forward. Davies didn't wait as long as Nguyen, getting it on his right foot about 20-25 yards out and ripping it off the inside of the far post. In the process, Davies became the first player in Revolution history to score two goals in a playoff match.
Unfortunately for the Revs, they couldn't hold onto the one-goal defensive effort. A justified penalty was given after Jose Goncalves handled the ball in the box, and Federico Higuain chipped it down the middle past a bamboozled Bobby Shuttleworth to reduce Columbus' aggregate deficit to two goals.
New England is back in action on Sunday in the second leg of the semi-final round in Foxboro.