Robert Warzycha’s Columbus Crew needed a statement victory to make the point clear to the rest of Major League Soccer: We are America’s hardest-working team, and we will be a massive force to be reckoned with in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
On Saturday, the Crew shut out the Eastern Conference cellar dwellers, Steve Nicol’s New England Revolution, to the tune of 3-0 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. With the win, the Crew return to the playoffs for the fourth straight year, tying a similar streak dating back to 1996-1999.
“We’ve tried to be positive in every game we’ve played. We’ve tried to do that. We want to do all those things. We haven’t done it—that’s the facts of the matter,” Nicol told reporters. "And on the occasions we have made chances and scored some goals, we’ve let them in at the other end. And vice versa. We’ve had a tough time here; there’s no hiding from that fact."
Andres Mendoza played a key role in the victory, recording a brace to add to his team-high 13 goals on the year. In the 31st minute, Emilio Renteria delivered a textbook through ball to Mendoza to open the proceedings for the road side.
Just before the hour match, Dilly Duka opened up his scoring account by taking advantage of a mistake by Revolution defender Darrius Barnes in failing to make a clearance.
Four minutes later, Renteria and Mendoze teamed up to put the game out of reach, with Sebastian Miranda creating the play to make it 3-0 Crew.
“We played direct today and basically on the turf that’s what you have to do,” Warzycha said. “Usually we play on the grass, so we possess the ball a little bit more and have more fun—but scoring goals also is fun. I think the guys responded very well (to the quick surface).
“We had to win this game to go to the playoffs, so obviously it was a difficult game here at New England because it is away from home. Even though their season didn’t go the way that they wanted it to, they are a very dangerous team at home. We are not three goals better than them. Sometimes it’s just that the game just goes like this.”
With the victory, Columbus improve to 13-12-8 (47 points) and could potentially finish first in the East if they defeat the Chicago Fire next Saturday and other results fall in their favor. As for the Revolution, they drop to 5-16-12 (27 points) and will conclude an abysmal campaign on the road against Toronto FC at BMO Field.
Keep it right here on Bleacher Report for continuing coverage of the 2011 Major League Soccer season.