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Neither the Columbus Crew nor the New England Revolution got the result they wanted in their season openers. Both clubs, however, are encouraged with how they played in the second half last weekend and will look to pick up where they left off when they meet Saturday in Foxborough.
Columbus entered the season full of optimism, with Federico Higuain, Gyasi Zardes and 2018 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Zack Steffen back in the fold under the direction of new coach Caleb Porter. The Crew, however, came out flat in front of the home crowd last Saturday against the New York Red Bulls.
Columbus surrendered a goal just six minutes in was outplayed for much of the first half and unable to get any rhythm. The game took a turn, though, when Gaston Sauro tied the score with a header off Higuain's corner in the 41st minute, and the Crew controlled much of the second half to pull out a 1-all draw against the defending Supporters' Shield winners, finishing with a 64-36 advantage in possession percentage.
"In a game like this, it is such a simple thing but it is not always an easy thing, it is just to win second balls and anticipate those duels in the center of the part and if we win them, then we get the ball down," Porter said. "I thought the first half it was a game of them coming at us by winning those duels. Second half, I thought it was a different story.
"In the end, I think we feel like it is two points dropped, for sure. Anytime at home when you don't get three points, you're gonna feel that way. Good news is, we had a better second half, but we're going to need to start the game and play the first half like we did the second."
Like Columbus, New England also fell behind early in its opener but also managed to earn a 1-all draw. At FC Dallas last Saturday, the Revs trailed 1-0 in the 13th minute before Carles Gil, a designated player acquired from Spain in January, answered with the equalizer in the 57th minute of his MLS debut to help New England earn a point.
"When you go down early on the road it's a very vulnerable spot to be in," central defender Jalil Anibaba said. "I thought we did a good job keeping the game 1-0 and then doing what we needed to do in the second half to put one back and I think we could've even gone up there. We're decently pleased with the point on the road."
Anibaba helped set up Gil's goal with a wide cross to Antonio Mlinar Delamea. Anibaba, who began his ninth MLS season last weekend, was a late addition to the starting lineup after captain Michael Mancienne suffered a back injury during pregame warmups. Mancienne is considered day to day.
"It's a decent stepping stone to the home opener," Anibaba said.
The Revs lost 1-0 at home to the Crew last May - its fourth defeat in the last six meetings - after playing to a 2-all draw at Columbus in April.
Updated March 8, 2019