If the first half was a story of missed chances — and it certainly was — then the Columbus Crew and New England Revolution made sure that the second half of their Eastern Conference semifinals first leg matchup was an exceedingly more enjoyable tale to tell.
Not content with their 1-0 halftime lead and one measly away goal, the Revolution came out firing after the break and blew this two-leg playoff series wide open with three second-half goals.
Set piece maestro Chris Tierney doubled the lead shortly after the half with an inch-perfect free kick in the 51st minute. The Crew offered their first bit of resistance in the 64th minute when Justin Meram neatly placed his first career playoff goal into the corner from 12 yards out.
[ VIDEO: Chris Tierney’s free kick makes it 2-0 ]
MLS MVP candidate Lee Nguyen did exactly what you expect of an MVP candidate, though, and restored the two-goal lead for the Revs just five minutes later. After picking up the ball inside the center circle, Nguyen dribbled unimpeded all the way into the Crew’s 18-yard box and calmly rolled the ball by Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark.
Charlie Davies added his second of the match with a laser-like strike from 22 yards, off the inside of Clark’s lefthand post and in (below video). This was Davies’s first multi-goal game for any first-team side since he scored a hat trick with D.C. United on Sept. 10, 2011.
The Crew were given a faint lifeline nearly three minutes into stoppage time, though, when Revs defender Jose Goncalves handled an Ethan Finlay cross inside the penalty area. Crew playmaker Federico Higuain converted a confident Panenka penalty to give his side a fighting chance heading into the second leg.
Not the return to the playoffs that Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter probably had in mind, but with the Revs experiencing similar playoff heartbreak in 2013, the experience factor was always going to go their way.
Leg two of this Eastern Conference semifinals series will be played Sunday, Nov. 9 (5 pm ET).
Columbus Crew: Clark, Jimenez (Gehrig 69′), Parkhurst, Wahl (Arrieta 79′), Francis (Anor 73′), Finlay, Trapp, Tchani, Meram, Higuain, Schoenfeld
New England Revolution: Shuttleworth, Tierney, Goncalves, Soares, Farrell, Caldwell, Jones, Rowe (Alston 74′), Nguyen (Kobayashi 89′), Bunbury, Davies (Mullins 79′)