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    CREW 2, REVOLUTION 0

    Revolution fall to Columbus Crew in home opener

    Columbus Crew celebrate a goal by Gyasi Zardes during the first half of an MLS soccer game against the New England Revolution, Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
    STEW MILNE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
    The Columbus Crew celebrated Gyasi Zardes’s first of two goals, this one in the first half.

    FOXBOROUGH — The Revolution’s home field seems to have become less of an advantage recently. After winning fewer than half their games at Gillette Stadium last season, the Revolution sustained a 2-0 loss to the Columbus Crew on Saturday, their first home-opening defeat since 2006.

    Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring in the 26th minute and added a late injury-time score, improving his total to six goals in seven regular-season games (plus one in the 2014 MLS Cup final while with the LA Galaxy) against the Revolution.

    And the Crew (1-0-1, 4 points) held off a second-half rally by the Revolution (0-1-1, 1 point), who squandered a chance to equalize when substitute Diego Fagundez had his 59th-minute penalty kick saved.

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    “First half, quite poor, to be honest with you,” Revolution coach Brad Friedel said. “There wasn’t a lot of life in the game from either side — they had one attempt on goal and I think we had one. We weren’t aggressive enough defensively. And we weren’t moving the ball quick enough.

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    “We had enough chances to score. We had a penalty — that was a very good save by Zack Steffen. Goals change games. That one goes in you never know what happens. I think we want to be a little bit more versatile in the attack, no doubt. We want to be able to combine, but also get crosses in the box. I don’t think we had the telling pass today, but that’s going to be a little bit of a work in progress as we go through with a lot of new faces.”

    On the first goal, Portuguese midfielder Pedro Santos lofted a pass for Zardes, who slipped behind Michael Mancienne and bounced a header past goalkeeper Brad Knighton from point-blank range.

    “The ball was so perfect, it gave me no time to jump,” Mancienne said. “It was inch perfect, a great ball.”

    The Revolution set up a similar sequence earlier in the half, but Carles Gil lofted a cross well over Juan Agudelo at the back post. Then, Cristian Penilla shot directly at Steffen (43d minute) and Edgar Castillo fired high in added time.

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    Fagundez replaced Penilla and Justin Rennicks made his MLS debut as a substitute for Agudelo after halftime, and the Revolution soon threatened.

    Fagundez had a free kick saved (50th), then Gil drew a foul from Gaston Sauro, and was helped off the field. Fagundez then chipped a free kick into the penalty area, where Wilfried Zahibo went down after a clash with Sauro. Referee David Gantar immediately awarded a penalty kick, though the contact appeared to be slight.

    Gil returned to the field, but Steffen dived right to save Fagundez’s low attempt.

    “At that part of the game, we were dominating, that’s why we won the penalty,” Mancienne said. “We were all over them. I felt like I was hardly in our defensive half. All the boys were switched on, anyway. Everyone could smell blood, and we were trying to go for it.

    “I feel like their chances came from nothing, really, like they just came out of the blue. We dominated, we had chances, we should’ve obviously done better, and that changes games sometimes. If we get a goal, that will change the whole flow of the game. Like I said, we’re just gutted to come out of that with nothing.”

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    The game opened up as the Revolution continued to attack, but the Crew maintained their composure and stifled forwards as midfielder Wil Trapp set up between central defenders Jonathan Mensah and Sauro.

    The Crew threatened as Justin Meram broke in alone, his shot saved (71st) by Knighton. Friedel tried to boost the Revolution offense with left wing Tajon Buchanan, making his MLS debut in place on Scott Caldwell in the 81st minute.

    “I thought they did what we’ve been working on in training all week,” Friedel said of his substitutes. “They were a lot more dynamic in what they were trying to do, and they gave us a big spark in the second.”

    The Revolution nearly lost defender Brandon Bye to an 84th-minute red card, but Gantar switched the call to a caution after a video review.

    In the sixth minute of injury time, Zardes broke away to convert off a Steffen clearance and Hector Jimenez service.

    “Road points in this league are difficult,” said Crew coach Caleb Porter, who upped his record to 2-0-4 against the Revolution. “For us, in our first road game, to come here – it’s a home opener, they had a good first result, we knew they would be flying. But I thought the way we managed the game, the way we kept the ball, the way we finished our chances, we defended well. We managed the game excellently.”

    The Revolution, playing the first of three March home matches, compiled an 8-4-5 home record last season and have an 8-1-4 record in their last 13 home-openers (12-6-6 all-time).