The New England Revolution and Columbus Crew split four first-half goals - then saw all the scoring dry up - as the teams settled for a 2-2 draw on Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
Kyle Martino opened the scoring for the Crew in the 20th minute, before Steve Ralston leveled terms in the 28th minute from the penalty spot. Two headers on free kicks in first-half stoppage time, from the Crew's Edson Buddle and Pat Noonan of the Revolution, finished the scoring.
The Revolution started brightly, spreading the pitch and attacking with vigor in the first 10 minutes. But the match settled, and Columbus gradually wrested control from the home side and had the first quality chance. Manny Lagos went close in the 15th minute, as Duncan Oughton found Lagos ghosting in at the far post, but he pushed his header just past the post.
The Revolution answered seven minutes later through a questionable penalty decision against the visitors. A teasing ball from Jose Cancela over the top of the Crew defense was chased down by Taylor Twellman. As Crew 'keeper Jon Busch charged off his line, there was contact between Twellman and Busch -- and referee Kevin Terry pointed to the spot. Ralston coolly sent Busch the wrong way to level the score.
After a long period where both teams struggled to cope with the match, neither creating many clear-cut scoring opportunities, the game suddenly exploded.
Buddle snapped the match from its stupor after the 45-minute mark rolled over with glancing header that oozed of class. Buddle rose high over the Revolution defense on a well-flighted Simon Elliott free kick, sending his header to the far corner of Reis's net to send the Crew in front.
But Noonan replied instantly to level the scores in startlingly similar fashion. A well-struck free kick from Jose Cancela on the right allowed Noonan to place a glancing header inside the far post past the dive of Busch.
The second half was much less frantic than the first, with both teams seemingly fatigued from their first half exertions. The Revolution failed to maintain any sort of possession, while Columbus failed to create chances in the final third.
Rusty Pierce made his long-awaited return to the Revolution lineup in the 77th minute, slotting into his familiar role in central defense after missing nearly the entire season with a thigh injury.
The telling chance of the second half fell to Crew right wingback Frankie Hejduk in the 80th minute. Kyle Martino placed the ball from a corner kick into the run of an unmarked Hejduk, but the veteran U.S. international scuffed his glorious chance well wide.
Neither side truly forced the issue to the end, though Columbus tried to attack by sending on Jeff Cunningham in 81st minute. Crew head coach Greg Andrulis also sent on Danny Szetela in the 85th minute for his professional debut.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Kyle Martino (Columbus Crew)
Columbus Crew (6-5-7) vs. New England Revolution (4-8-7)
August 8, 2004 - Gillette Stadium
CLB -- Kyle Martino 3 (unassisted) 20
NE -- Steve Ralston 2 (penalty kick) 28
CLB -- Edson Buddle 6 (Simon Elliott 4) 46+
NE -- Pat Noonan 7 (Jose Cancela 6) 48+
Columbus Crew -- Jon Busch, Duncan Oughton, Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall, Frankie Hejduk, Simon Elliott, Ross Paule (Danny Szetela 85), Chris Wingert (Jeff Cunningham 81), Manny Lagos (Brian Maisonneuve 59), Edson Buddle, Kyle Martino
Substitutes not used: Matt Jordan, Nelson Akwari.
SHOTS: 6; SHOTS ON GOAL: 4; FOULS: 17; OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 6.
New England Revolution -- Matt Reis, Joe Franchino, Avery John, Jay Heaps, Steve Ralston, Brian Kamler (Rusty Pierce 77), Jose Cancela (Andy Dorman 81),Shalrie Joseph, Richie Baker (Felix Brillant 66), Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan
Substitutes not used: Doug Warren, Luke Vercollone, Perek Belleh, Bobby Thompson
SHOTS: 13; SHOTS ON GOAL: 8; FOULS: 7; OFFSIDES: 2; CORNER KICKS: 7; SAVES: 2.
CLB -- Edson Buddle (caution; Reckless Foul) 19
CLB -- Jon Busch (caution; Interference (GK or Throw-in)) 28
NE -- Steve Ralston (caution; Pushing, Holding) 45
Referee: Kevin Terry
Referee's Assistants: Thomas Supple; Chip Reed
4th Official: Erich Simmons
Time of Game: 90:00
Weather: Partly Cloudy -and- 68 degrees
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.