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Gyasi Zardes nets brace as Crew blank Revolution

New England Revolution Columbus Crew
FOXBOROUGH, MA - MARCH 09: Columbus Crew midfielder Pedro Santos (7) plays the ball away from New England Revolution defender Edgar Castillo (8) during a match between the New England Revolution and Columbus Crew SC on March 9, 2019, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Revolution’s home opener came to a close with Columbus Crew forward Gyasi Zardes slotting home a simple finish in stoppage time, handing the Revs their first defeat of 2019.

Last week, Caleb Porter’s Crew drew New York Bulls, and the Revs had the same outcome against FC Dallas.

This week, Zardes propelled his club to victory, scoring both of his team’s goals, in a 2-0 result. His first came in the 26th minute when midfielder Pedro Santos looped a wonderful cross over Revolution captain Michael Mancienne that Zardes headed past goalkeeper Brad Knighton.

“Absolutely gutted, to be honest,” Mancienne said about the loss. “I feel like their chances came from nothing really, like they just came out of the blue.”

Zack Steffen, the 23-year-old American who will join Manchester City this summer, blasted a goal kick right into the waiting legs of Hector Jimenez, catching the Revs out of position in the match’s final minutes. Zardes then calmly sealed the win, beating Knighton once more.

Shortly following the commencement of the second half, Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez curled in a free kick from just outside the box that dipped hard toward the turf and post. But Steffen was on it, tallying another excellent save.

“I’m proud of the effort the guys put out today,” Steffen said. “They stepped up in a lot of moments for the team, and I had to step up once or twice and luckily I was able to.”

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The magnificent Steffen also stuffed a penalty kick from Fagundez after Gaston Sauro felled Wilfried Zahibo in the box. The Pennsylvania native quickly dove to his right to save Fagundez’s cross-body effort, keeping Crew ahead 1-0 in the 59th minute.

“I never blame a player, at all, for missing a penalty,” Friedel said.

The first ten minutes were swinging heavily in New England’s favor, as Designated Player Carles Gil was spreading the ball around for the Revolution. Friedel’s side pressured Columbus well during this span of time, and the home squad even had a few opportunities that could’ve altered the end product.

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In the 24th minute, midfielder Teal Bunbury rainbowed a cross to Juan Agudelo nearing the six-yard box, and despite the forward’s sturdy body position, he couldn’t muster a touch elegant enough to set up a shot.  Six minutes later, Brandon Bye struck a dangerous cross into the box, but Columbus responded just in the nick of time for the clearance.

“It was a tough game. We created some chances in the first half but we didn’t get lucky enough to put them in,” Revolution defender Edgar Castillo said.

Nearing the 40th minute, Castillo connected with an open Bunbury who immediately sent in a low cross. Again, no one was there to capitalize for the Revolution. A couple minutes later, Cristian Penilla utilized some nifty footwork to navigate through tight quarters near the sideline, though his give-and-go with Scott Caldwell didn’t challenge Steffen enough.

Castillo made a great read to intercept the ball before half, which contributed to the feeling that the Revs were fighting hard to equalize.

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Friedel then made two substitutions for the second half. He took off Penilla for Fagundez and switched Agudelo for Justin Rennicks. In the 81st minute, Tajon Buchanan subbed in for Caldwell. Both Rennicks and Buchanan were making their MLS debut.

“Just wanted to come out on the field and bring some energy and help out the team,” Buchanan said. “Unfortunately, we came up short.”

The Revs noticeably quickened their pace with the addition of the youngsters, and Friedel was happy with what he saw.

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“Both very good players; both very athletic,” he said. “Justin [Rennicks] comes on at halftime when he probably didn’t expect to. I thought he provided the necessary spark we needed.”

In the 71st minute, Knighton made a critical stop on forward Justin Meram mere feet away from goal, and it was clear the referees were letting a fair amount of contact slide until the 86th minute. Bye was jumping for a header, and his arm hit Santos on the head, prompting a red card. However, video review showed that Bye’s action was far from intentional, so he was only penalized with a yellow card.

Rennicks and Buchanan were at the forefront of a couple last-ditch attempts for the Revs. But Crew hung tough, and New England fans, accepting defeat, started filing out of Gillette Stadium.

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