The New England Revolution handed the Columbus Crew their first loss in MLS competition since the end of June, grabbing the advantage in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with a 1-0 victory on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
The only goal of the match was a brilliant strike off the left boot of Avery John in the 25th minute, which sent the Crew to their first defeat in a league since June 26 at home against the Colorado Rapids, though they had lost to an MLS team in the U.S. Open Cup since.
It was a just result for a Revolution side that dominated possession and created more chances than the visitors, who looked out of sorts for the vast majority of the proceedings, under heavy pressure from a New England side challenging for every ball.
Shalrie Joseph then had the ball in his feet six yards from goal in the 19th minute, but good marking by Robin Fraser railroaded the ball into the waiting arms of Busch.
The Crew came back into the game and had a few chances. Marshall Leonard's foul on Frankie Hejduk some 30 yards from goal allowed Simon Elliott to curl a free kick towards the far post after 22 minutes, but his inviting ball snuck through the crowd and into touch over the endline. Edson Buddle then hit a smart volley from 20 yards two minutes later, but the effort was easily saved by Matt Reis.
Out of nothing, the Revolution claimed the lead after 25 minutes through the most unlikely of sources, as Trinidad & Tobago international John tallied his first ever goal in MLS in spectacular fashion. Given plenty of time to line up his shot from well outside the area, he blasted a left-footed shot blasted with some English on it, leaving Busch with no chance.
Tony Sanneh directed his header right at Reis from another Elliott free kick after 43 minutes, but a subsequent free kick near the death of the half nearly brought the Crew level in grand fashion.
After Reis drew an indirect handball call from Michael Kennedy after dropping the ball on the pitch and returning it to his hands, Elliott chipped the ball onto the thigh of Ross Paule, who struck a dipping volley viciously at goal only to see Reis tip it over to end the half.
The first half of the second stanza fell to Elliott in the 50th minute, but his chance was deflected wide by Pierce.
Leonard had a fantastic chance to double the score on 62 minutes, as Twellman nodded smartly into his path, but Leonard's first-time strike was not enough to beat Busch.
Kyle Martino had the best chance of the match for the Crew in the 77th minute, but his well struck effort to the lower left corner was saved brilliantly by Reis in order.
While the Crew pushed forward against a tiring Revolution side over the final period, it was the home side that twice came closest to nearly doubling their advantage.
Twellman missed a free header from six yards in the 84th minute after a fine cross from substitute Andy Dorman, then Noonan made a chance for himself after 88 minutes, as he spun Chris Wingert, but ended by flashing his shot across goal before sailing wide of the far side.
The stout Revolution defense held firm over the final minutes, and now they will carry their slim advantage into the second leg of the series, set for Sun., Oct. 31 at Crew Stadium (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution)
Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution
October 23, 2004 -- Gillette Stadium
NE -- Avery John 1 (Steve Ralston 1) 25
Columbus Crew -- Jon Busch, Robin Fraser, Tony Sanneh, Chad Marshall, Frankie Hejduk, Simon Elliott (Dante Washington 63), Duncan Oughton, Ross Paule, Chris Wingert (Danny Szetela 90), Kyle Martino, Edson Buddle (Jeff Cunningham 51).
Substitutes Not Used: Nelson Akwari, Matt Jordan.
TOTAL SHOTS: 6 (Edson Buddle 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (4 tied with 1); FOULS: 16 (Edson Buddle 3, Duncan Oughton 3); OFFSIDES: 3 (3 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Simon Elliott 3); SAVES: 2 (Jon Busch 2)
New England Revolution -- Matt Reis, Jay Heaps, Avery John, Rusty Pierce, Marshall Leonard, Steve Ralston, Jose Cancela (Andy Dorman 77), Shalrie Joseph, Pat Noonan, Taylor Twellman, Clint Dempsey.
Substitutes Not Used: Richie Baker, Perek Belleh, Felix Brillant, Brian Kamler, Bobby Thompson, Luke Vercollone, Doug Warren.
TOTAL SHOTS: 6 (Taylor Twellman 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 20 (Jay Heaps 5, Shalrie Joseph 5); OFFSIDES: 1 (Pat Noonan 1); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Steve Ralston 2); SAVES: 4 (Matt Reis 3)
NE -- Shalrie Joseph (caution; Tackle from Behind) 4 CLB -- Edson Buddle (caution; Tackle from Behind) 26 CLB -- Robin Fraser (caution; Pushing, Holding) 35 NE -- Avery John (caution; Reckless Foul) 58 NE -- Jay Heaps (caution; Tackle from Behind) 82
Referee: Michael Kennedy
Referee's Assistants: Craig Lowry; Steven Davidson
4th Official: Abiodun Okulaja
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.