Revs face a new and improved Crew

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The new logo and updated moniker aren't the only things that have changed for Columbus Crew SC since the New England Revolution ended their longtime foe's postseason journey in the conference semifinal five months ago.

Cosmetic changes are one thing. But adding a proven goal scorer in Kei Kamara has made the Crew a considerably tougher opponent.

"They're very different than they were last year," Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. "He's been very good for them. He's athletic, very strong, smart soccer player and he's also dynamic in the attack."


Heaps has learned that first-hand. The last time the Revolution encountered Kamara, he scored twice for Sporting Kansas City to hand the locals a disheartening 3-0 loss at Sporting Park back in August 2013.

Not long after that impressive performance, he was transferred to English side Middlesbrough, where he spent two largely unglamorous seasons. Now back in MLS, Kamara's skill and savvy makes the Columbus attack far deadlier.

"Kei's a dynamic forward," Revolution striker Charlie Davies said. "He's big, he's great in the air, he's great at holding up the ball for them, and he definitely changes their team."


But the Revolution know they can't set their sights solely on the Sierra Leone International.

Federico Higuain remains one of the league's most formidable midfielders, and his ability to influence the offense from the run of play or on dead-ball situations allowed the Crew to surge into the postseason on the back of a 6-1-1 finish during the final weeks of the 2014 campaign.

"We were victimized by his set pieces (last year), and he's really good at those," Heaps said. "But Higuain dictates a lot of the game, and I think when they're playing at their best, he's pulling the strings."


With the Argentinean playmaker plotting the course, the Crew lead the league in overall possession at 56 percent. And that's not by accident, either, as Columbus boasts an 80.3 percent passing accuracy figure, the second-best mark in MLS.

"They do a good job of manipulating the game," Heaps said. "They're a really good possession team and they dictate the pace so when we're playing well against them, we're disrupting that a little bit, and keeping it ourselves, and finding the spaces to play."


While many of the Crew's qualities have only bolstered their credentials as a potential postseason contender, the Revolution also added a new weapon of their own since the last year's conference semifinal.

After spending the first four weeks of the season working his way back to fitness, Juan Agudelo scored his first goal of the season against Colorado last week to steer the Revolution to a 2-0 win. A striker by trade, Agudelo has spent much of his time on the right side of the midfield while Davies continues to stretch defenses with his speed at center forward.

"He's obviously a talented player, so it makes my job much easier when I have an option to play," Davies said. "We're starting to find each other a lot more, and look for each other a lot more, so it's exciting, and hopefully more goals can come from it."

Goals weren't a problem for the Revolution the last time the Crew came to town, of course. But even though the Crew may enter Saturday's contest somewhat depleted with a mid-week match in Vancouver on tap for Wednesday, Heaps isn't expecting them to be any less dangerous.

"It's always difficult with the travel, but they'll be fine," Heaps said. "They're a really good team, and a deep team. The deeper your team is, the easier the travel is."