The Columbus Crew's performance in their 1-0 loss last Saturday at Gillette Stadium to the New England Revolution in the first leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series was very uncharacteristic of their season. The Crew lost for the first time in any competition since a loss to the Chicago Fire in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on July 20.
They've only lost seven times all season in all competitions, three of which were in the first three matches, and just five times over the course of the MLS season on their way to winning a first-ever Supporters Shield. Of those five losses, only two were by shutout and those also came during the first three games of the season.
Tied with the Colorado Rapids for the stingiest defense in MLS, Columbus allowed barely more than a goal per contest throughout the season. However, the Crew's midfield and backline made an unusual but grave mistake against the Revolution.
In the 25th minute, defender Avery John received a pass in the middle third of the field and inched his way towards the Crew goal as nobody stepped up to impede his progress. Given such ample time, John eventually lined up a magnificent shot from 30 yards. The swerving shot had a mind of its own and eluded Jon Busch's attempt for a save.
"It had a lot of movement on it. I have seen it a few times since the game," said the Crew netminder. "It just kept tailing away. I couldn't get a piece of it because it kept moving away from me."
While Busch wished he could have made a miraculous save on the shot that began moving to his left before swiftly changing paths to his right side, he knows his teammates put him in a vulnerable situation.
"It was a great strike on his part, but we need to close the space down some. We kept backing away from him and need to be tighter in the second game," said Busch.
The All-Star goalkeeper was unhappy to lose the first playoff match for Columbus in two seasons, but said holding the Revolution to only one goal was important to the Crew's success in the return leg.
"We couldn't give up a second goal in the game -- going down 2-0 is a lot worse. If we got a goal in the second half, that would be great but our main objective was not to give up a second one," Busch said.
"They had a couple quality chances in the second half and fortunately for us they didn't get another. Now, this weekend's game is more realistic for us."
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.