Despite conceding a goal just seconds into the match, league leader Kei Kamara's fourth brace of the season gave Columbus Crew SC a much-needed 2-1 win over the the New England Revolution Wednesday night at MAPFRE Stadium.
The win was the first for Crew SC since its 3-2 victory over the Seattle Sounders May 9, ending a six-match winless streak and giving the club "revenge" they still sought for a devastating 7-3 aggregate loss in last year's MLS Cup Playoffs.
After talking about the "intense" matchup in the days leading up to the match, neither team wasted any time getting on the board.
Just 35 seconds into the match, a Mohammed Saeid pass was deflected to Lee Nguyen, who immediately turned upfield deep in Crew SC territory. Columbus defenders declined to close down the oncoming Nguyen, who glanced up just outside the 18-yard box and precisely placed a shot into the bottom corner and out of the reach of Steve Clark for the opener.
But Crew SC took just moments to respond, thanks to Kamara continuing his career-best scoring pace.
In the 4th minute, Federico Higuain redirected a Hector Jimenez cross on frame, but only found the crossbar. A fortunate bounce and poor marking from New England, however, gave Kamara a wide-open look as he extended his lanky frame to nod a downward header past a helpless Bobby Shuttleworth.
The blistering pace of the opening minutes would cool down following the second goal, but the heated nature of the match would not.
Scuffles littered the first half, with players showing frustration at their play, officiating and each other. While no cards were given in the first 45 minutes, players had to be separated multiple times.
Columbus would not make the mistake of starting the second half the way they started the first, thanks to a quick goal created by two league leaders.
Assist leader Ethan Finlay found a wide-open Kamara in the 50th minute for the go-ahead goal from point-blank range, a strike that gave the winger nine assists on the season and the striker 12 goals on the season – the best total of his MLS career less than halfway through the season.
But the goal didn't come without controversy. What looked like a handball on Jeremy Hall wasn't called in the New England box just seconds before the goal, and when Finlay received a cross from Waylon Francis the ball seemed to hit his arm as well. But referee Fotis Bazakos again stayed silent.
New England players were furious, and Shuttleworth picked up a yellow card for sprinting after Bozakos to argue the call in his face.
Despite tired legs and a late onslaught of chances for the Revolution, Crew SC would hang on to the one-goal lead to end their skid.
The win takes Columbus (5-6-5) to 20 points on the season, four back of New England (6-6-6), who have cooled noticeably since a 5-0-1 stretch.