It took 120 minutes to best Atlanta United last Thursday. It took Columbus Crew SC just over a half to knock down New YorkCity FC 4-1 Tuesday before an energized crowd at MAPFRE Stadium. Goals from Ola Kamara , Artur, Justin Meram and Harrison Afful lead the way for Columbus as the club takes a commanding lead into the second leg on Sunday in New York.
True to form, both teams started attacking with the visitors getting two early chances off of defensive miscues that failed to test goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Columbus quickly took advantage of NYCFC's misfiring offense as the group pressed into the attack. Pedro Santos unleashed a blast from distance that New York City keeper Sean Johnson could only palm away. The rebound fell right to Kamara who quickly buried the shot to make it a quick 1-0 Crew lead in the sixth minute.
The game didn't slow down from there. Meram nearly doubled the lead when he had a rebound chance from seven yards out in the 32nd minute. Then it was Kamara’s chance to increase the score from close range seven minutes after. The Norwegian had an open look at goal after an outstanding Afful pass that split the backtracking NYCFC defense, but put it high.
The visitors had their chances in the first half as well and should have come out with some goals after several miscues at the back. A turnover at midfield gave The Citizens possession in the final third, but David Villa pulled an open shot from 12 yards out wide in the 26th minute. The next chance came after a Josh Williams slip at midfield again gave the visitors possession and Villa another open chance in the 37th minute, this time he rang the post.
The game opened more in the second half with the aid of video review. As NYCFC took a corner in the 50th minute, center back Alexander Callens brought his elbow against Meram's face. Substitute referee Ismail Elfath called the foul immediately. He upgraded to a red card after taking a look at video review.
Columbus didn't wait to extend its lead as the Crew pushed the advantage on the counter. After getting numbers forward, Federico Higuain got the ball to Artur in traffic. The Brazilian was able to dig the ball out, turn and fire a shot passed Johnson to make it 2-0 in the 58th minute.
The Crew then piled on with the advantage, again in the open field behind a Meram shot that Johnson misplayed to make it 3-0 in the 74th. The two game series looked all but over with the dominant performance from the home side.
NYCFC restored a glimmer of hope in the 78th minute as a Jonathan Mensah slip gave the ball to Villa in the Crew penalty box. The striker took a quick turn and fired. The goal brought NYCFC back into the tie with the score 3-1.
The Crew nearly fumbled the game away as the visitors pressed for another goal to further tighten the series. Wave after wave of NYCFC pressure crashed north goal as Columbus couldn't get the ball out of its own half for the five minutes after Villa's score.
Columbus eventually settled and Afful quite possibly finished the tie with a magical display of individual brilliance. With seven NYCFC defenders in the box, the fullback took a quick touch and split the defense, dipped to the left and ripped a low shot past Johnson to make it 4-1 as the crowd erupted.
The Crew had seven shots on goal, four found the back of the net. NYCFC had 19 shots, but only three on target. Columbus may have flubbed some good chances in the first half, but they were ruthless on the counterattack after the red card. New York City wanted to push numbers forward and they paid the price.
Between the 52nd and 58th minute the Crew went from a tight battle with a narrow one goal edge to up a man and a two goal lead. The team attacked ruthlessly and made the advantage count and essentially ended the series.
The Crew heads to New York City for leg two of the Semifinal series up 4-1 on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET. Three teams have held a commanding three-goal lead after the first leg. All three advanced.