No matter how it happens, three points is three points in soccer. That’s what Columbus Crew SC will be taking away from the team’s 3-2 road win over the New York Red Bulls Saturday night. The Black & Gold were up 3-0 in the first half, but held on to take the full three points — only the third road win of the season — and head back to Columbus happy.
It didn’t take long for Crew SC to get on the scoreboard in this one. And the first goal came thanks to a mistake by Red Bulls midfielder Michael Murillo. With the ball down by Columbus’ attacking corner, Murillo apparently thought the play stopped. The midfielder bent down and picked up the ball, despite no whistle, and was called for a hand ball.
On the ensuing free kick, winger Pedro Santos’ ball went to the head of forward Patrick Mullins. Making his first start, Mullins headed the ball down to center back Jonathan Mensah inside the penalty area and the defender slotted the ball into the corner of the net for an early 1-0 lead.
Despite a couple of Derrick Etienne minor chances, it was very much a controlled approach by Columbus early. And in the 23rd minute, the Black & Gold found themselves up 2-0 thanks to Mullins. Pushing up the field, fullback Harrison Afful play a one-touch through ball for Mullins near midfield. The forward carried the ball into the penalty area before calmly dispatching the ball past goalkeeper Luis Robles for the two-goal advantage.
Shortly after Crew SC went up by two, Jonathan nearly put one into his own net. A cross was sent into the penalty box by the Red Bulls and the defender attempted to clear. His touch was on goal, but Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen was there to make the save.
In the 31st minute, there actually was an own goal but in Crew SC’s favor. Santos’ corner kick was flicked past Robles and into the net by midfielder Sean Davis, giving Black & Gold a 3-0 first half lead.
With his team trailing big at the break, Red Bulls head coach Chris Armas went to his bench to make changes. He brought on attackers Bradley Wright-Phillips and Alejandro Romero Gamarra, also known as Kaku, who didn’t play in the first half after New York’s midweek game. Those changes brought the adjustments Armas was looking for.
Just five minutes into the second half, Wright-Phillips impact was felt. Valenzuela gave the ball up cheaply coming out of his own defensive third and it led to a cross from Daniel Royer. That he off Wright-Phillips, back off Jonathan and into the Crew SC goal.
Columbus had a chance to regain the three-goal lead in the 53rd minute. Robles had to come off his line to deny an onrushing Niko Hansen. The ball spilled to Black & Gold forward Gyasi Zardes but his first touch was too strong and the Red Bulls were able to clear.
In the 69th minute, New York officially made the game too close for comfort from a visitor’s perspective. Once again, the play originated on the Crew SC left side with Valenzuela losing out on a tackle. Kaku eventually ended up with the ball, floating a pass for the head of Royer, who easily tucked it home.
After the Red Bulls pulled within one, it was do-whatever-is-necessary time for Columbus. In the 80th minute, Royer had the opportunity to level the game but put his shot well over the crossbar.
With five minutes to play, New York again had a chance to tie the game at three. Steffen made one save before a shot was hit off Wright-Phillips’ back. The follow-up attempt was cleared off the line by halftime substitute Lalas Abubakar and the lead remained one.
After four minutes of stoppage time, center referee Sorin Stoica gave his whistle three quick blows indicating the end of the match. Despite a rocky second half performance, the Black & Gold got a much needed three points on the road against an Eastern Conference rival.