It was the first loss in nearly three months, but Columbus Crew SC were able to outlast a furious charge from New York City FC and goals from David Villa and Andraz Struna to escape from New York with a 2-0 loss, but the 4-3 win on aggregate and move to the Eastern Conference Finals.
NYCFC got the early life they wanted with a penalty in the first quarter hour. Josh Williams made the inital play on a ball into the box, but clipped Rodney Wallace on the second chance to give the home side a kick from the spot. David Villa easily buried the shot in the 16th minute and put NYCFC ahead 1-0 and back into the tie.
Columbus only settled slightly after the goal and NYCFC continued to tally possession and force a series of turnovers from the Crew. The Black & Gold struggled to get out of their own end and had to rely on luck and a save from Zack Steffen kept the deficit to 1-0.
The Crew did have a stretch of possession midway through the half, but they didn't truly test Sean Johnson with any of thier five first half chances.
NYCFC continued to raise the pressure on the beleaguered Crew defense in the second half. The home side would begin the half strong with two Villa shots inside the box, but it was the recent Austrian import Struna who was able to break through.
Struna settled the ball on the right side and drove in a shot to the far post. Indescribably, Jonathan Mensah stuck his head to the ball and redirected it into his own net. City was dominant and a goal away from taking the tie.
Jonathan again was key in another NYC chance. Jack Harrison drove quickly in a counter attack. The Crew defender rotated to cover, but failed to make an attempt on the ball. Harrison continued unimpeded at Steffen. His shot was parried away, killing the chance to take the lead of the tie.
As the Crew struggled as the game remained open, Gregg Berhalter decided to change the game, first by bringing in Kekuta Manneh for a struggling Justin Meram in the 69th minute and then swapped out forward Ola Kamara for Lalas Abubakar. The move to the three man backline took the air out of the game for NYCFC and their offense fell silent. Registering thier last shot the same moment as the Crew moved to a back three.
Columbus would have one last scare with a scrum in their box. Sean Okoli attempted overhead kick failed to connect and the Crew were able to clear.
When it was over: When Zack Steffen settled over the ball to boot it deep in the 95th minute. This one came down to the end. New York threw everything they had at Columbus and almost overturned a monumental lead. It was truly an escape.
Stat line: Two and four. City rang the posts twice while Steffen was forced into four big saves to help the Crew progress. The offense was a no-show as the team tallied a low 36.8% possession while only getting off a single shot on target. Without a bend, but not break defense backstopped by Steffen, the Crew's season is done.
What's next: A nice break, then the Crew's season has at least two more games, the Eastern Conference Championship. They will host Toronto FC on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, November 21st at 8pm then return to action in the second leg on Wednesday, November 29th in Toronto.