For most MLS clubs, the playoffs serve as a reward for the fine season they have strung together. For the New England Revolution, the reward of their upcoming series against the Eastern Conference regular-season leaders Columbus Crew is more about survival and persistence than excellence.
Entering the playoffs with a 2-1 victory against the fourth-place Chicago Fire, the Revolution passed the test of their proverbial three-game season with two victories, against Brimstone Cup combatants Dallas and Chicago, as well a loss at D.C United to play their way into the playoffs after a disappointing campaign which yielded just eight wins from 30 matches.
Revolution defender Rusty Pierce said that with their backs up against the wall, his side pushed onwards and gained a third consecutive playoff berth.
"This has been a really long season," said Pierce. "We take a long time to get to 30 games. We had more downs than ups, but we were on the right side of a good result. We won when we had to."
It was a mixture of injuries, with key players such as Carlos Llamosa and Joe-Max Moore suffering season-ending knee injuries in the early stages of the campaign, and profligate defensive behavior with a lead that led the Revolution into their season-ending must-win match.
"We had quite a few games where we had the lead and we gave it up," said Revolution midfielder Steve Ralston.
But that finally wasn't the case last weekend, as Nate Jaqua's equalizer was quickly negated by a 58th-minute strike by Ralston, which was named the MLS Goal of the Week.
The Revolution defense then did what they had to do, shutting down the Fire attack - something that could bode well for future in the home-and-home series with Columbus.
"We had a lot of injuries this year, but we fought through them," said Revolution manager Steve Nicol. "We had probably 25 changes forced by injuries out of 30 matches this year. This is our reward for just staying with it every day."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.