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Eastern Conference Championship

Revs put pressure on Columbus

It is rare for a coach to rebuke his side after a victory at home, especially in the playoffs.

Despite claiming a spot on the final day of the season with victory against Chicago, the New England Revolution entered the playoffs as a playoff-tested fourth seed capable of upsetting top-seeded Columbus over two legs.

With the possibilities of greater glories in mind, Revolution manager Steve Nicol demanded more from his side in the upcoming weeks, despite their 1-0 triumph against the Crew on Saturday night to open their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

"In the first half, we were delighted," said Nicol. "We created chances and we reduced them to scraps. In the second half, we didn't start well. We had bad shape. They needed to start well, and we were the opposite of what we were in the first half."

Match-winner Avery John concurred that his teammates failed to completely answer the bell for the second stanza.

"In the first half, we came out and got after them," said John. "In the second half, they were first to everything, but we still had one or two chances to score."

Nicol could only blame a lack of focus after a solid 45 minutes led to a second half where Columbus held possession in the attacking third only for the home side to stand resolute in front of goal to deny the creation of any gilt-edged scoring chances.

"It was due to a lack of concentration," said Nicol. "When you're up, halftime is the last thing we want. Next time, we need to be fully concentrated after halftime."

Home form has propelled the Revolution this season, as six of their eight wins during the regular season came at Gillette Stadium. Nicol believes the focus has helped create a run of form that has propelled the Revolution from last place to a potential spot in the Eastern Conference Final.

"We've had a good run of form at home," said Nicol. "We started focused and hungry (Saturday), and we've gotten into a wee bit of rhythm at home."

Yet Nicol denies that any changes made by the Crew should force his hand. The five-man midfield for the Crew caused a few problems for Nicol's side, but the former Scottish international put out his team in a 3-5-2 to match on Saturday night. Still, he brushed aside any suggestions of change simply to combat the opposition.

"We do what suits us," said Nicol.

Kyle MCCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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