COLUMBUS, Ohio – Determination and fortitude carried the New England Revolution through a four-year wilderness -- including one last afternoon of earnest toil -- to the final whistle at Crew Stadium.
Those essential qualities ultimately produced the desired salvation. At long last, the Revs were back in the postseason after a 1-0 victory over Columbus on Sunday.
“It's good for the organization,” Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis told MLSsoccer.com. “It's always tough not being in the playoffs. The last couple of years have been really rough on us. We've put together a great team. You can see by the performance today and how we battled for each other. Guys were coming in and playing great. It was a team effort and we got out of here with a 1-0 victory.”
The last episode in this protracted battle to return to the playoffs summed up the last month rather neatly. Juan Agudelo and Lee Nguyen provided a glimpse of the quality within the ranks when they combined for Agudelo's winner after 28 minutes, but the merits of this win came through the cohesiveness and the grit shown throughout the affair.
Every player contributed to the collective cause. Some even did so at considerable personal expense. Jose Goncalves persisted through a right hamstring injury suffered in the first five minutes. Kevin Alston departed in the second half after he picked up a hamstring strain. And Kelyn Rowe sustained a rather nasty kick to the outside of his knee on a rash Dominic Oduro challenge in second-half stoppage time.
All of those sacrifices – plus the performances across the board, including a couple of instrumental saves from Reis – yielded the desired end product. Columbus huffed and puffed, but the Revs remained defiant until the last to fulfill their objective.
“We knew they were going to be difficult to play against,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “They had our number a little bit last week. They outplayed us in the second half and we were able to hang on in that one. They outplayed us again tonight in certain areas of the game. We had to defend and make sure we were compact in our space. When you're playing against a team in their last home game of the year and they're a good team, you have to bring everything you have. That's what we did tonight. We brought everything we could.”
Those efforts proved more than enough to claim this cathartic victory and secure a date with Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The assignment isn't an easy one, but the Revs are well prepared for it in the wake of these last few weeks.
It is a task they will embrace with relish. It is no longer about the failures of the past or the triumphs in the present. It is now about the possibilities in the future.
“We're not celebrating by any means,” Revolution defender A.J. Soares said. “That's not at all our mentality. We have another game. We're going to approach it just like we've approached these games. We're going to go and we're going to try and win. That's all we can do at this point.”
Kyle McCarthy covers the New England Revolution for MLSsoccer.com.