The New England Revolution did not need to win their 2nd leg in order to move on in the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T, but they did anyway, putting an exclamation mark on a dominant series performance against the Columbus Crew.
The Revolution picked up where they left off in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series on Sunday, claiming a 3-1 victory in the second leg at Gillette Stadium to push their aggregate score to 7-3 and advance to the Conference Championship for the first time since 2007.
Lee Nguyen opened the scoring late in the first half to effectively put the series out of reach, and Jose Goncalves and Teal Bunbury added tallies in the second stanza. Meanwhile, the Crew received more red cards than they scored goals in the match, as Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram were both ejected by referee Armando Villarreal in the second half.
Columbus – who were playing without injured trio Federico Higuain, Aaron Schoenfeld and Bernardo Anor had several chances to make the series interesting in the opening 45 minutes, but they couldn't convert on any of them. Jairo Arrieta was involved on two very good first-half looks, only to be denied impressively by Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
That left the door open for Nguyen to strike in the 43rd minuteon a cross from Bunbury. Allowed plenty of time on the ball on the left side of the penalty area, Bunbury whipped in a cross that Nguyen took on the bounce and rifled home. It marked Nguyen's sixth straight game with a goal.
With the Crew needing to push even harder to score the four goals required to overturn the result, New England took advantage of the space in front of them and added to their lead in the 56th minute. Charlie Davies fed Goncalves with a nice ball from the right, and the wide-open center back pushed it over the goal line despite best efforts by Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark.
Columbus eventually pulled one back through Tony Tchani, who scored the consolation goal with a well-taken header in the 69th minute before Bunbury finished a Daigo Kobayashi to cap the scoring in the 77th.
As if things were not bad enough for the Crew, they lost Finlay and Meram to a straight red card and two yellow cards, respectively. Finlay was sent for an early shower in the 61st minute after clipping Shuttleworth in the head while trying to race in for a ball in the penalty area, and Meram's night ended in the 85th minute when he picked up his second bookable offense.
The Revolution will now take on the New York Red Bulls in the two-legged conference finals. New York, who beat D.C. United 3-2 on aggregate in their Conference Semifinal series, will host the first leg on Nov. 23. New England will then host the decisive match on Nov. 29, with the series winner advancing to MLS Cup.