Columbus suffered the roughest 90 minutes of the season as they lost to the New York Red Bulls 2-0 and also suffered two first half injuries.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter was forced into an early change as Artur challenged Kemar Lawrence for a ball and fell awkwardly. He injured his left wrist bracing himself and walked off with an air cast on his arm as he grimaced from the pain. Mohammed Abu replaced him in the sixth minute.
The Red Bulls would quickly capitalize as Crew SC struggled to adapt to losing the dynamic Brazilian and Abu got up to game speed with an 11th minute goal from Alex Muyl. Sasha Kljestan slipped a ball into the left side of the box. Lawrence’s centering pass was clipped by Nico Naess, but Muyl was able to trundle the ball home from close range for the early lead.
Columbus still struggled to settle as New York pressed relentlessly. Crew SC played directly as they got stuck in the defensive end, but they let the Red Bulls push forward. Muyl would get another good chance in the 16th minute and Wright-Phillips in the 23rd to make it 2-0, but Crew SC held on.
The second would come off of a penalty on Crognale and to add injury to insult, the rookie injured himself on the errant tackle in the 36th minute. The Red Bulls caught the Black & Gold on the break and Daniel Royer found Bradley Wright-Phillips in the box. Crognale came in hard and trundled into the forward for the easy call.
Royer buried the spot kick to make it 2-0. Josh Williams replaced Crognale, who was unable to continue.
The Red Bulls pulled back defensively as the first half wound to a close and throughout the second half. Crew SC was able to push forward with numbers, but rarely able to create real chances. The visitors would get off five shots in the second half, but none were quality. Ethan Finlay would have the only chance in the last 30 minutes, but it came from 25 yards out.
The early Injury (x2)
Crew SC had to make two first half subs due to injury with Artur and Crognale having to be replaced. Artur injured his left wrist in the first minute and Crognale couldn’t walk off his leg injury suffered in the 36th minute.
Berhalter’s plan didn’t survive Artur’s contact with the field. The early sub forced a change to Abu who doesn’t cover the same amount of ground and struggled early with the press. He grew into the game, but it was out of hand by then.
Crognale’s sub limited Berhalter’s flexibility even more. He had only one more sub to try and change the game. He ended up sending out Finlay in the 61st minute with Crew SC down 2-0.
Crew SC has consistently struggled with the press that the Red Bull uses so Columbus quickly tried to play directly. Through 20 minutes, the passing chart looked like this.
The Crew SC attackers were starved for the ball as the linking play was lacking. Columbus had five shots, one on goal through the first half.
Crew SC had 60% possession and 10 shots, but only 2 were on target. Justin Meram had a 32nd minute shot from the left side and Ola Kamara from a similar position in the 50th minute. The Red Bulls did an excellent job of keeping Crew SC from getting into dangerous positions and coasted to an easy victory.
The Artur injury certainly created some issues getting into any offensive flow, but the Red Bulls game plan upset whatever Crew SC was trying to do. They couldn’t play through it and they couldn’t go long and they couldn’t adjust.
Next week, Columbus faces another New York team as New York City FC come to MAPFRE next Saturday evening. Crew SC has yet to lose at home while NYCFC has a road win at DC. With results pending, Columbus will likely be looking to climb back up to the top of the Eastern Conference.