SANTA MONICA – New York City FC was given a cold awakening during their first match of the MLS postseason, as they were handily defeated by Columbus Crew SC by a score of 4-1 in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the MAPFRE stadium on Halloween Night.
Crew SC immediately came out strong, starting the match off with an early goal in the sixth minute of play. After a great stop from NYCFC goalie Sean Johnson, forward Ola Kamara quickly picked up the deflection and hit it right to the back of the net.
While Black & Gold won by a decisive margin, the match was still full of many missed chances. One of the biggest failed opportunities happened in the 31st minute, when Crew SC midfielder Justin Merman found the ball at his feet in front of an open box. Merman energetically blasted the shot over the crossbar.
New York City FC also had problems finishing. In the 36th minute, forward David Villa, ever alert, picked up a sloppy backward pass north of midfield. Villa sped past two defenders and had an open shot in the right corner. The angle was too sharp and Villa’s shot bounced off the post. Villa recovered his own rebound to keep possession.
The tempo of the match changed in the 52nd minute after a red card was given to NYCFC defender Alexander Callens. Referees reviewed video and confirmed Callens elbowed Merman in the face during a set piece play. From this point, Crew SC got into their stride and dominated the rest of the game.
Crew SC’s second goal came minutes after the ejection of Callen. In the 58th minute after midfielder Artur received a pass in the goalie box from midfielder Federico Higuain, Artur was able to send it to the back of the net, giving the Crew a 2-0 lead.
After what seemed to be a second-half catastrophe, NYCFC finally managed to score in the 78th minute. Villa, being in the right place at the right time, picked up a loose ball in the box and competently put the ball in the goal. This seemed to put NYCFC somewhat back into the game, with the score at 3-1.
However, NYCFC was never able to recover from the early deficit. This was further capitalized on when Crew SC scored a fourth goal during stoppage time. Crew SC defender, Harrison Afful juked six NYCFC players to score one the best goals in 2017. After receiving a pass from Merman, Afful deftly dribbled past five players and confidently pushed the ball with across the goal line with his left foot . This win brought the Crew’s winning streak to 12 consecutive matches across all competitions.
After the loss, NYCFC will find it more difficult to advance during the Semifinals. The club needs to score three goals and shut out the Crew to move on to the finals, but the team still remains hopeful that they’ll be able to accomplish this by finishing better next game. The second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals will be this Sunday on Nov. 5 at the Yankee Stadium at 5:00pm eastern time.
Photos courtesy of ISI, some content providing by Columbus Crew SC, YouTube and their content providers.