FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For the first time in two months, the New England Revolution emerged from a match with three points.
A 54th-minute Dimitry Imbongo strike and a 74th-minute own goal from defender Chad Marshall separated the teams as the Revs notched a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Crew, snapping a 10-game winless streak in the process. The win marked the first triumph for the home side since a 2-0 win over New York on July 8.
New England's cathartic victory halted the Crew's six-match unbeaten run and plunged the hectic Eastern Conference playoff race into further chaos as the Crew failed to add to their one-point lead over D.C. United for the fifth and final playoff spot.
Neither side looked particular threatening in an opening stanza that betrayed the fixture congestion facing both sides in recent weeks.
Most of the viable efforts came from set pieces. Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum pushed away Lee Nguyen's free kick on 19 minutes in the first genuine effort toward goal. Diego Fagundez forced another save with his overhead kick from the remnants of a throw-in ten minutes later. The Crew tried to answer back soon after, but Federico Higuaín curled his freekick effort over the bar as he attempted to recreate his brace in the Crew's 4-3 win over New England on Aug. 25.
The best chance of the opening half came from a deflected shot moments before halftime. Kevin Alston cut inside and hit a shot toward goal. The effort caromed off Sebastian Miranda's leg and curled toward the far corner. Gruenebaum reacted well to palm the effort away and send the teams into the interval on level terms.
Imbongo opened the scoring eight minutes after play resumed to punctuate a positive spell from the home side. Diego Fagundez did most of the heavy lifting as he hit the near post in the wake of Flo Lechner's throw-in, but Imbongo timed his run well to sweep home the loose ball on the edge of the goal area to notch his first MLS goal.
New England built upon the lead, exploiting the Crew's weary legs for much of the second stanza. Stephen McCarthy thought he had doubled the advantage by heading in a freekick with a half-hour to play, but was disappointed by the assistant referee’s offside ruling.
No such issues cropped up when Marshall headed into his own net 14 minutes later. A long hoof forward from Matt Reis and a headed flick from Chris Tierney placed the Crew under immediate pressure. Gruenebaum and Marshall failed to cope with Imbongo's attention and disaster eventually struck when Marshall lofted his attempted clearance over Gruenebaum and into the vacated net.
Columbus nearly pulled a goal back four minutes from time in the midst of a scramble, but Reis flashed out his hand to keep the effort out and secure the Revs' first win since July 8.
New England have a chance to make a push up the Eastern Conference standings next week on the road to D.C. United, while the Crew will look to get back on track in a tough road test with the New York Red Bulls.