New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis singlehandedly knocked the Columbus Crew out of the MLS Cup Playoffs on Sunday evening at Crew Stadium, saving a pair of penalty kicks as the teams settled for a 1-1 draw, the Revolution advancing to the Eastern Conference Final 2-1 on aggregate.
Reis, who took over the starting role midway through the season after long-time New England regular Adin Brown was knocked out with a concussion, saved spot kicks from Ross Paule midway through the first half and Tony Sanneh late in the second half as the Supporters Shield winners couldn't overcome a one-goal deficit from the first leg last weekend.
Taylor Twellman finally converted a chance nine minutes from the end to seemingly kill off the series, but Edson Buddle's goal two minutes into stoppage time gave the Crew a final breath of life, though they couldn't capitalize, their dreams of a first MLS Cup Final trip ending quickly after concluding the regular season with an 18-game unbeaten streak.
Needing to overcome the first-leg deficit, the Crew created a pair of good opportunities in the opening 15 minutes. Frankie Hejduk headed a cross from Chris Wingert wide of goal in the third minute, then in the 14th minute, Duncan Oughton sent a long, diagonal pass from his right back spot to Tony Sanneh, but Reis was able to grab onto Sanneh's looping header from 15 yards.
The Revolution were able to possess the ball for long periods despite playing on the road against a desperate team. After a Oughton foul on Pat Noonan in the 18th minute, the Revolution earned a dangerous free kick from the corner of the penalty box, but Jose Cancela hit the ball directly at Crew 'keeper Jon Busch.
Minutes later, Columbus dodged another chance. Taylor Twellman rounded the Crew defense and squared a ball to Clint Dempsey who hit a low shot that severely tested Busch, but the Crew netminder swatted around ball around the post with his right arm.
An ugly turnover by the Revolution backline should have given the Crew the lead in the 24th minute. Kyle Martino intercepted a weak pass back to the 'keeper from Avery John. Martino rounded Reis, but was taken down by the sprawling 'keeper before he was able to finish.
But Paule failed to capitalize on the glorious opening as Reis made a great diving save to his left to stop his penalty. The Crew had hit an MLS record 20 consecutive penalty kicks -- 19 in league play and one in the MLS Cup Playoffs -- before Paule's miss. They were 8-for-8 from the spot in the regular season.
Not to be undone by the chance, the Revolution missed out on a quality opportunity four minutes later. Twellman went in alone against Busch, but pushed the ball too far in front of him, and the 'keeper was able to deflect the ball away from goal just as Twellman was trying to shoot.
The Crew had another wonderful chance before the half was out, falling to Washington, who was put in alone by Duncan Oughton as Columbus beat the Revs offside trap. Washington tried to dribble around Reis but the New England was just able to stop the ball with his fingertips.
At the halftime break, Andrulis brought on Buddle to partner Washington in attack, but it was the Revolution who stormed out of the gate in the second half. Twellman and Pat Noonan both misfired on shots from just outside the penalty box in the period's opening moments.
But after the initial attacks, the Revolution began to bunker around their goal, putting everyone except Twellman behind the ball.
In the 65th minute, the Crew were unable to cash in on another gift. After a back pass, the Revolution 'keeper ranged out of his area with the ball at his feet, but Cunningham nicked it away from behind and it went to Paule, who tried to one-time the ball into the unprotected net. But his attempt was blocked by Avery John.
Then 18 minutes from the end the Crew won a second penalty kick, after Cunningham was tripped by John after a mazy run through a number of defenders in the area. This time Sanneh was nominated to take the kick, but his effort to Reis's right was not well hit and easily grabbed at the foot of the post by the Revolution 'keeper.
It was just the third time in MLS history -- and the first time ever in the postseason -- a goalkeeper had saved two penalty kicks in the same game. Tony Meola did it in 2002 (Kansas City Wizards), while D.J. Countess did it last year, while playing for the Dallas Burn.
Having used up just about all their lives on Hallowwen night, there was one final let-off for the home side in the 79th minute when Twellman skied the ball well over the goal from close range when all alone after a good pass from Dempsey.
But the Columbus luck ran out in the 81st minute, as Dempsey found Andy Dorman, who skipped past a defender and poked a pass toward Twellman in the center of the area, and he gleefully pounded the ball into the back of the net.
The Crew were able to get a late equalizer in the second minute of injury time as Sanneh played a long ball to Edson Buddle in the left side of the area. The Crew forward raced past Jay Heaps and slotted the ball past the oncoming Reis to pull Columbus back within a goal on aggregate, but they were able to do nothing more than cause the Revolution the slightest concern over the final minutes.
The New England Revolution now travel to the nation's capital to take on D.C United in the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET), the winner advancing to MLS Cup 2004 at The Home Depot Center on Sun., Nov. 14.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Matt Reis (New England Revolution)
New England Revolution (1-0-1) vs. Columbus Crew (0-1-1)
October 31, 2004 -- Columbus Crew Stadium
NE -- Taylor Twellman 1 (Andy Dorman 1, Clint Dempsey 1) 81
CLB -- Edson Buddle 1 (Tony Sanneh 1, Ross Paule 1) 92+
New England Revolution -- Matt Reis, Jay Heaps, Rusty Pierce, Avery John, Steve Ralston, Jose Cancela (Andy Dorman 76), Clint Dempsey, Shalrie Joseph, Marshall Leonard, Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan.
Substitutes Not Used: Richie Baker, Felix Brillant, Brian Kamler, Doug Warren.
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Taylor Twellman 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Taylor Twellman 2); FOULS: 13 (Jay Heaps 3, Pat Noonan 3); OFFSIDES: 4 (Taylor Twellman 4); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Jose Cancela 3); SAVES: 4 (Matt Reis 4)
Columbus Crew -- Jon Busch, Chad Marshall, Duncan Oughton, Robin Fraser, Frankie Hejduk, Chris Wingert (Edson Buddle 46), Simon Elliott, Ross Paule, Tony Sanneh, Dante Washington (Jeff Cunningham 59), Kyle Martino (Danny Szetela 69).
Substitutes Not Used: Nelson Akwari, Eric Denton, Matt Jordan, Manny Lagos, Michael Ritch, David Testo.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Ross Paule 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (5 tied with 1); FOULS: 11 (Duncan Oughton 4); OFFSIDES: 1 (Dante Washington 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Simon Elliott 4); SAVES: 4 (Jon Busch 4)
CLB -- Kyle Martino (caution; Professional Foul) 26
CLB -- Frankie Hejduk (caution; Pushing, Holding) 68
Referee: Alex Prus
Referee's Assistants: Kermit Quisenberry; Robert Fereday
4th Official: Kevin Terry
Time of Game: 1:53
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-62-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.