The New England Revolution beat the Columbus Crew 2-1 at Gillette Stadium as two of Major League Soccer’s form teams met in the East on Saturday.
Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones' strikes were separated by an Ethan Finley equaliser, before a red card for Waylon Francis eased the pressure on the Revs.
Columbus are New England’s most recent conquerors at home and on the road, but weren’t able to complete a clean sweep in the 2014 series here having been humbled last year.
Within the opening five minutes, the Crew were demonstrating their threat on the break, and talisman Federico Higuain came closest with a right-footed curler after good work from Francis on the flank.
A Teal Bunbury snapshot was the hosts’ first offering, but they nearly fell behind to a stunning move. Francis again crossed from the left, and Finley’s sumptuous flick presented Aaron Schoenfeld with the opportunity to finish, but Bobby Shuttleworth spread himself well.
This stop would quickly prove crucial, as the Bay Staters took the lead. Bunbury centred, and when the ball bounced through to MVP hopeful Nguyen, he coolly controlled and slotted into the corner.
However, this advantage was cancelled out immediately. Tony Tchani charged forward to find Finley, who in turn found the net as he accelerated away from his marker.
Jones then hacked wide, while a deflection almost aided Andrew Farrell’s ranged strike. The former had another thump with half-time approaching, but Steve Clark was alert to push the ball away.
Finley’s pace continued to cause problems for the Revolution though, and after collecting Higuain’s pass, he squared for the advancing Schoenfeld, who couldn’t extend a toe.
Following the interval, Finley really should have added a second, with Shuttleworth saving well after Tchani had again set his speedy teammate through on goal. The goalkeeper was then called into action twice more, as Hector Jiminez swept towards the corner and Schoenfeld blasted on target.
As in the first period, New England went up the other end and scored. Chris Tierney’s whipped free-kick beat Wil Trap on the near post, and Jones nodded into the net.
Proceedings soon got worse for Columbus too. With Clark stranded far from his goalline, the already cautioned Francis blocked Charlie Davies’ attempts to profit with a quick throw-in and had to walk.
While the reduced numbers didn’t prevent the Crew from worrying Jay Heaps’ men in the closing stages, they were able to see out the victory and move another three points nearer to the play-offs.