New England Revolution manager Steve Nicol was thrilled with his team's effort from top to bottom, as his side ran out convincing 3-0 winners against the Columbus Crew at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. The loss snapped the Crew's 19-game league unbeaten streak and propelled the Revolution to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Although the Revolution scored three goals -- a week after scoring a pair in a 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes, it was the defensive effort of his side that Nicol credited. Pressuring from the front two to the back three, the Revolution frustrated Columbus from the opening whistle.
"We were pretty confident that we were going to keep a clean sheet tonight," said Nicol. "The defensive effort started up top. Guys fell into the middle and we marked up. The back three picked up the rest."
After a first half where New England dominated play and spurned quality chances, the home side went into halftime committed to raising the bar in the second half to capture the three points.
"At halftime, we said that we needed to start as quickly as we did in the first half," said Nicol. "We didn't change anything. We just did things with better quality. We were half a yard too far in the first half. In the second half, we clicked."
Columbus struggled to find their feet against the Revolution's pressure tactics throughout the match. Pinned back and struggling to possess the ball, the Crew held out defensively before the floodgates opened with Clint Dempsey's 64th-minute header past valiant Crew 'keeper Jon Busch.
"I think they did a nice job of defending for 60 minutes," said Nicol. "We kept going at them. After the first goal, things changed and we found more space."
It was a frustrating night for the Crew offensively. Ante Razov missed with a couple of half chances from outside the box, and Kyle Martino missed badly with the Crew's only genuine chance.
"We were off in a lot of different areas tonight. It was our inability to pass the ball and to consistently establish any rhythm. We had too many easy turnovers," said Crew head coach Greg Andrulis. "The effort is not something we should have to worry about."
With the Revolution congesting the passing lanes in midfield, Crew playmaker Martino was suffocated by the defensive midfield duo of Shalrie Joseph and Clint Dempsey, starving Razov and Edson Buddle of service.
"Kyle's one of the great players [in MLS]," said Joseph. "Steve [Nicol] told me before the game that I needed to play well tonight."
For the Revolution, it was a comprehensive victory, and protagonist Dempsey was content with the result.
"You'd feel cheated if we didn't get the three points after taking it to them," said Dempsey.
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.