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(Reuters) - Charlie Davies scored twice as the New England Revolution beat the Columbus Crew 4-2 in their Eastern Conference, first leg playoff match on Saturday.
An injury time penalty from Federico Higuain gave Columbus a glimmer of hope for the Nov. 9 second-leg but the home team were outclassed for large stretches of the game.
Justin Meram hit the bar for the Crew in the 29th minute with a drive from inside the box after good work from Waylon Francis but that served to bring New England to life.
The visitors grabbed the lead five minutes later with Davies stooping low to head in at the back post after a superbly timed-run to spring the offside trap and meet a Kelyn Rowe free-kick.
The Revolution doubled their advantage with a superb curling free-kick into the top corner from Chris Tierney six minutes after the interval, before Meram pulled one back with a side-footed effort from inside the box in the 64th minute.
Columbus's defense then fell to pieces against New England's counter-attacks.
The impressive Lee Nyugen ran, unchallenged, with the ball from inside his own half to the edge of the Crew area where he confidently slotted past Steve Clark to make it 3-1.
Davies added his second and New England's fourth when the Crew defense again backed off to give him space and he delivered a fine finish from 20 yards out.
The Revolution, however, left themselves with some work still to do in eight days after Jose Goncalves handled in the box and Higuain, brother of Argentine international Gonzalo, cheekily chipped his penalty into the net.
Real Salt Lake host LA Galaxy in the Western Conference playoffs later on Saturday.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Greg Stutchbury