for this game

Crew beat Revs, clinch first in East

Oct 11, 2009 - 2:58 AM By BRIAN O'CONNELL STATS MLS Correspondent

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (STATS) - Gino Padula scored a first-half goal as the depleted Columbus Crew clinched first place in the Eastern Conference with a 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution on Saturday night.

The victory gave the reigning MLS Cup champion Crew (13-5-10) 49 points - tops in the league - and an insurmountable eight-point lead over second-place Chicago with two matches remaining.

Padula scored in the 36th minute after he launched a 35-yard free kick that skipped through a series of players before it lodged itself into the back of the net.

Columbus played without Chad Marshall due to injury, while Frankie Hejduk, Robbie Rogers and Alejandro Moreno all had World Cup qualifier commitments.

New England (10-10-8) remained in the eighth and final playoff spot with 38 points and also has two matches remaining. The Revolution are two points ahead of D.C. United, FC Dallas and Toronto FC for eighth place.

"We had no quality tonight," said Revolution manager Steve Nicol. "Whatever we did, whatever we tried, there was no quality in it. And there's no getting away from it."

The Revolution tested the Crew early with a pair of chances that goalkeeper Will Hemser mishandled before his defenders cleared them out of danger.

Shortly after that, and even with league MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto on the bench, the Crew outplayed the Revolution for the remainder of the match.

"We didn't get the ball, we didn't create chances," said Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph. "We were just lackluster all around."

After Revolution keeper Matt Reis denied a quality chance by Steve Lenhart in the 24th minute, he was helpless to stop Padula's long-distance lob 12 minutes later.

"It was horrible," said Nicol. "I don't know how to put it - it's horrible, no matter how you want to look at it. Nobody's taking charge. It's horrible goal. There was no communication."

Columbus played the final 25 minutes with 10 men after Emmanuel Ekpo was given a straight red card for elbowing Kevin Alston on a 50-50 ball near midfield.

Hemser then made his best save of the match in the 68th minute when he parried a hard shot from the right flank by Sainey Nyassi.

"A purist would say you have an extra man, so you pass the ball around and break them down" said Nicol. "But the bottom line is we didn't do anything with quality, so our passing wasn't good enough to do that. "

The Revolution play their final two matches against the top two teams in the East - at home against Chicago next Saturday and at Columbus on Oct. 25.

"It was painfully frustrating that we didn't rise to the challenge," said Joseph. "We didn't do what we were supposed to do to get points."