Gregg Berhalter discusses Columbus Crew SC’s 2-1 win over New York City FC.Posted by Massive Report on Saturday, September 1, 2018
The stat sheet was one sided in favor of Columbus Crew SC and thanks to two second half goals, the Black & Gold earned all three points from visiting New York City FC. After allowing a goal against the run of play Tajouri-Shradi, Harrison Afful and Justin Meram pushed Crew SC to a 2-1 victory at MAPFRE Stadium.
Both teams were ready to attack from the start of the first half. The rain slicked surface played fast and that suited both Crew SC and NYCFC though neither really tested goal through the first 15 minutes.
Columbus had a penalty shout in the 18th minute. Transitioning quickly, Meram cut back in the penalty box and was collided with. Referee Alan Kelly felt that Meram slipped on the wet turf and allowed play to continue. The winger swept the ball wide while still seated to Milton Valenzuela. The left back’s cross was headed wide by Gyasi Zardes.
Meram nearly scored his first goal in his return in the 32nd minute. Higuain sent in a cross that was knocked wide. Valenzuela sent in a low shot that was parried by goalkeeper Sean Johnson. J9 clipped the rebound into the goal, but the flag was up as he was offside by two yards.
Just a minute later Meram had another chance. Fellow winger Pedro Santos sent in a smooth pass into the penalty box that fell to Meram. Free on goal, the Black & Gold’s number nine sent his shot to the edge of the goal and earned a corner. Columbus wasn’t able to make anything of the attempt count.
Meram’s busy first half continued with another great shot in the 42nd minute, but Johnson was up to the task.
The momentum remained with Crew SC as the second half started with another great chance. Higuain cut in from the left side and bent in a cross. Zardes redirected the ball with a glancing header just past the NYCFC post.
Columbus would once again be stymied on the doorstep in the 52nd minute after a flurry of chances. Valenzuela took the ball in the penalty box and turned and fired a shot, but it was blocked. The followup from Artur was also blocked. New York’s defense held.
City’s was able to capitalize immediately after that. With Columbus attacking, the visitors got the ball off a hard challenge on Santos and dribble the length of the field. Defender Lalas Abubakar tried to end the chance with a tackle on Anton Tinnerholm, but the ball would ricochet to Tajouri-Shradi. Free on goal, he calmly finished past Zack Steffen to give NYCFC the 1-0 lead in the 53rd minute.
Following the goal, the Crew SC players surround Kelly, questioning the lack of foul, but no review or reconsideration was coming. Columbus would have to battle back after controlling the game.
The comeback occurred immediately. Crew SC pushed forward with renewed urgency of the shock deficit and after several high quality chances, it was a bomb from long distance that would bring the Black & Gold back. Afful lined up a shot from 30 yards that was blocked. Picking up the rebound, he hammered another shot from 25 yards and put it past Johnson to tie the game in the 61st minute.
It took two minutes for Columbus to take the lead. Off a corner, Santos sent in a curling ball that crossed the six-yard-box in no man’s land and left Johnson rooted to his line. Meram got his goal, powering the header into the net to give Crew SC the 2-1 lead.
The Black & Gold nearly had a third goal on the evening in the 71st minute. Zardes was played a ball on the left and cut in on goal. He slipped a ball to Meram. In on goal, the winger clipped his shot and the chance was cleared.
The third goal nearly came in the 86th minute. Santos played fierce defense and earned a turnover. He got free and then play in Zardes. His shot from distance would hit the right post and carom out.
New York City wouldn’t test the Crew SC goal the rest of the way. Only Sebastien Ibeagha’s blocked shot would be the only shot from the visitors in the last twenty minutes.
The Meram Factor
It’s no secret that Justin Meram didn’t enjoy his time in Orlando. It’s clear that he’s comfortable in Columbus. He was the best player on the field on Saturday, firing five shots, setting up three shots with key passes, and making four defensive interceptions. He fueled the offense from the left side, sitting in pockets of space or breaking past the line. Meram completes the front four and makes everyone else just a bit more dangerous.
The Total Offense
This was a complete and total effort on offense. The team unleashed 24 shots, six on target. Thirteen of the shots came from inside the penalty box. Of the starting field players, only Abubakar didn’t get a shot off. This team completely and utterly overwhelmed NYCFC.
It was a combination of several factors, the return of Meram has helped, but now Federico Higuain is healthy. Santos looks very comfortable in his supporting role. Zardes didn’t get on the score sheet, but he was able to connect passes and pull the defense around with his movement. With this front four, Columbus can put together another late season charge up the standings.
Crew SC improves to 12-8-7 and 43 points on the season. That puts them three points ahead of the Union for fourth place. The Black & Gold now have a long break, pausing for the international dates. They next play in Dallas on Sep. 15th, the start of a three game week.