Both teams squaring off under the lights at MAPFRE Stadium Saturday were desperately needing the three standings points a victory would provide. Two entertaining, shot-riddled halves of football resulted in a 3-2 win for Columbus Crew SC that was never comfortable by any means.
New York City FC came to town on the heels of a winless four-game homestand at Yankee Stadium, its lone triumph of the season coming at Chicago on March 6. As expected, head coach Patrick Vieira elected to use a 4-3-3 scheme on the road. Spaniard superstar and captain David Villa carved substantial space out for himself on a number of sequences in the attacking third during the first 45 minutes: one of those instances resulted in NYCFC's first goal off a geometrically beautiful assist crossed in from the right touchline by outside back Andoni Iraola.
Late drama saw Michael Parkhurst receive a straight red card after a physical challenge on New York City substitute forward Kwadwo Poku, although it appeared both in real time and upon consideration of video replay that Tyson Wahl was the one who committed the controversial foul inside the box.
The foul led to what would be part two of Villa's brace, when he converted an 87th minute attempt from the penalty spot to halve Crew SC's two-goal lead.
Ethan Finlay, Kei Kamara and Justin Meram netted the goals for the Black & Gold, with both wingers selflessly assisting each other's strikes. The performance showcased both symmetry of the directions in which Columbus can attack and balance across the stat sheet. The play of the outside wingers was remarkably efficient all evening, and the midfield unit created enough chances to have reasonably led to far more Columbus tallies than the three that were actually punched in: if not for a few cruelly unlucky angles on pitch-skimming attempts on goal, this Crew SC team easily had five or six scores in them.
Mohammed Saeid filled in wonderfully for an injury-scratched Tony Tchani, displaying disciplined passing accuracy and helping anchor possession in the midfield for Columbus while Wil Trapp took on a more defensive role. He capably contested and contained NYCFC's Italian legend Andrea Pirlo and U.S. Men's National Team member Mix Diskerud.
Steve Clark, meanwhile, had crucial saves and intelligently designed punchouts late in the match to secure the nailbiter for Columbus' first 2016 win, as New York City refused to relent and tried to use its offensive weapons to press right until the final whistle after over five minutes of added second-half stoppage time.
Columbus will host a Western Conference foe next Saturday night in the Houston Dynamo, a club that has an identical record of 1-3-2 on the year.