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The Columbus Crew SC Rivalry with the New England Revolution is Real

After last season's playoff defeat to the Revolution, Crew SC staff and players are looking forward to a new chapter in this young rivalry.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes it's hard to get a feeling for what Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter is thinking or feeling about a game. Often, you get the company line that his team is going to play their game and not worry about the opponent. That, while a game may be a rivalry game, it's another Eastern Conference opponent, or something similar.

This is not the case with the New England Revolution, the team that convincingly knocked Crew SC from the playoffs last year, coming up on Saturday.

"I hope so. It's on my mind," Berhalter responded when asked if the players are still thinking about the wakeup call they received against the Revolution last November.

"Obviously we were disappointed how last season ended. To lose to them in that fashion is disappointing so obviously we see them as somewhat of a rival."

Rest assured coach, your players have not forgotten.

"[The league] may not deem it a rivalry but I think the fact of the matter is, we had some tough games against New England," midfielder Ethan Finlay said before the season began.

"For myself, we're not a huge fan of them. I respect them, I think they have some really good players, and I think Jay Heaps has done an incredible job up there, but I want to beat them. I don't like them. It was a tough way to end my season and I didn't feel good about it at all and I know a lot of other guys didn't."

After three tightly contested games during the regular season - two within the final month and a half - the two sides squared off in the playoffs as the two hottest teams in the league. The Revolution was the only lost the Black and Gold suffered over the final two months of the season, a loss that caused them to finish three points, one win, behind New England in the standings.

The first-round series was expected to be one of the closest of the MLS Cup Playoffs, but it was the Revs who dominated Crew SC over the two legs.

The first leg, at then Columbus Crew Stadium, wasn't a terrible performance by Columbus, but was on the score sheet. New England scored 11 minutes from halftime and then again six minutes after the break. Justin Meram pulled one back for the home side, but two goals eight minutes apart broke the Black and Gold.

Federico Higuain gave Crew SC fans slight hope with a stoppage time penalty kick, but hope was all it was.

Despite saying all the right things leading up to the second leg, Columbus was outdone against by a superior side. The Revs won the game 3-1 and the aggregate series 7-3 to advance in the playoffs and send the Black and Gold to an earlier than expected offseason.

What made it worse was how it ended. Finlay was issued a red card for leaving his foot in on Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth - since rescinded - and  Meram was shown his second yellow card for a stupid frustration tackle late in the match.

"There's a salty taste in our mouth, especially mine still from how that last series, aggregate ended," Finlay explained. "The way I went out, the way some of our other guys went out, we're not happy with and we're not proud of either."

Columbus left the turf of Gillette Stadium like a dog with a tail between its legs.

Despite winning two of the three regular season meetings, Crew SC was outclassed when it mattered most. After a great end to Berhalter's first year in charge, making the playoffs for the first time since 2011, it was not the way the team expected to go out.

It's a new year and a new Crew (SC). There are some new faces on both sides, but the rivalry that began to bud last year is still there.

"I'm looking forward to playing them again," Crew SC goalkeeper Steve Clark said. "I know they pressed us well. I'll be looking forward to it. I'm sure they're looking forward to get after me again but I'm also looking forward to playing other teams. But I'll be excited for that game."