Former Crew keeper Friedel returns as Revolution coach
The rivalry between the New England Revolution and the Columbus Crew SC goes back to the infancy of Major League Soccer when the teams battled for a playoff spot on the final day of the inaugural season in 1996.
Columbus won that match to land a postseason berth thanks to a goalkeeper who had joined the Crew down the stretch and posted an 8-1-0 record.
That player was Brad Friedel, who in the following season would be named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year before signing with Liverpool to start a long and distinguished career in England's Premier League as well as the U.S. national team.
Friedel, an Ohio native, is now in his first season as New England's head coach and he takes the Revolution (3-2-1) to Columbus to face the struggling Crew (3-3-1) on Saturday at Mapfre Stadium.
"We're going to their stadium, my old club," Friedel said. "It'll be nice to go there and coach against them, and I think it'll be a fun evening for everyone to watch."
Adding to the intrigue is that former Crew standout defender Mike Lapper is on the Revolution staff. Lapper played 121 matches for the Crew from 1997 to 2002 and then was an assistant to head coach Sigi Schmid when Columbus won the 2008 MLS Cup.
Also, Friedel, Lapper and Crew coach Gregg Berhalter were in the national team player pool at the same time.
Friedel has guided New England to third place in the Eastern Conference and a second road win in three matches would double its away victories from last season.
It would also take some sting out of a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas last Saturday that ended a four-match unbeaten streak.
"The mindset is to learn from our mistakes," Revolution forward Teal Bunbury said. "It's disappointing whenever you lose, especially at home, but we have another game. That's the beauty of this game. You have more and more opportunities to get better, kind of redeem yourself."
New England midfielder Kelyn Rowe will miss a second straight match because of a knee injury sustained in training last week.
Columbus bolted from the gates and was unbeaten in its first four matches but has lost three straight for the first time since May 2010. Worse, they have not scored in 241 minutes.
"It's tough, but we have to keep working," Crew defender Harrison Afful said. "We're putting the games behind us. We're professionals. We need to get better. Losing three in a row is really bad, but we have to be physically and mentally strong."
It's not as if Columbus hasn't had opportunities to break its scoreless drought. The Crew have outshot the Chicago Fire and D.C. United 45-10 in the past two games but lost each 1-0. The 45 shots are the most taken in consecutive games without scoring in league history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
"The mood is pretty high for having lost three straight," Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen said. "It's a process of training hard and getting everything out of everybody."
Updated April 19, 2018