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Columbus Crew falls to the New England Revolution, 1-0, in season finale

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Columbus Crew forward Jairo Arrieta (25) battles for a ball with Houston Dynamo defender Warren Creavalle (5) during a game at Columbus Crew Stadium Sept. 4. The Crew won, 2-0. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Columbus Crew forward Jairo Arrieta (25) battles for a ball with Houston Dynamo defender Warren Creavalle (5) during a game at Columbus Crew Stadium Sept. 4. The Crew won, 2-0. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Completing their season sweep of the Crew, New England clinched a spot in the MLS Playoffs with a 1-0 win. It didn’t come easily though, as Columbus fought hard to equalize the game right up until the final whistle.

In a last-gasp offensive effort, forward Jairo Arrieta attempted a pass forward to midfielder Ben Speas, who was streaking up the right wing toward New England’s goal. The kick was too hard and came too early, however, and the ball passed ahead of a frustrated Speas as time expired.

“I tried to get on the inside of my man. I thought the ball was played a little bit early and I couldn’t get around him. Give me a few more seconds and I could have got by him maybe. It’s just unfortunate,” Speas said after the loss.

The Crew trailed 1-0 at the half after Revolution forward Juan Agudelo tapped the ball backwards with a heel kick to midfielder Lee Nguyen, who then fed the ball back to Agudelo for the game’s lone goal.

Columbus adjusted their game plan in the second half in an effort to create new looks and produce more fruitful offensive pushes.

Interim head coach Brian Bliss used the team’s third substitution in the 72nd minute, replacing defender Agustin Viana with midfielder Justin Meram, effectively changing the team’s on-field formation.

Frequent injury stoppages throughout the contest saw the referee add an additional eight-minute segment of extra time to the end of the match.

Collisions and hard-fought struggles for the ball were common. Forward Ryan Finley replaced Aaron Schoenfeld in a 54th minute substitution after Schoenfeld suffered the second of two blows to his head in midair contact with Revolution defender Jose Goncalves.

The Revolution eliminated the Crew from playoff contention last week with a 3-2 victory. Columbus could have returned the favor with a draw Sunday, perhaps explaining the exasperation Crew players showed after the Arrieta-Speas connection fizzled in the waning seconds.

Minutes before kickoff at Crew Stadium, the Houston Dynamo vanquished D.C. United. The Revolution had been tied with Houston on 48 points in the Eastern Conference standings before that result went final, and the Chicago Fire stood to take the last spot in the playoffs if New England fell short Sunday.

Facing a win-and-you’re-in playoff scenario, New England prevented Columbus from playing spoiler and earned three crucial points.

“They knocked us out. We wanted to knock them out. We definitely were pushing as hard as we could to disrupt what they wanted to do,” said Speas.

The Crew will enter the offseason looking to ramp up the pace of their ongoing search for a permanent replacement for head coach Robert Warzycha. Bliss is to be included on the list of potential candidates for the job.

Warzycha was relieved of his duties and released from his contract on Sept. 2, 2013, as new ownership cited dissatisfaction with the results on the field.

The Crew tied the franchise record for most losses with Sunday’s defeat. The Crew lost 17 games during each of their first three seasons in 1996-98.

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