The Columbus Crew finally broke the team’s four-game winless streak that had plagued the Black & Gold’s October on Wednesday, defeating visiting New York City FC 3-1 behind goals from Artur, Pedro Santos and Gyasi Zardes. It was a hard-fought conest but three much-needed points for the home side.
New York City turned an errant Harrison Afful pass into a chance in the 10th minute. Gary Mackay-Steven picked up the ball near the backline, took a touch and played a centering pass to Keaton Parks. The NYCFC midfielder took a touch and his shot from 19 yards forced a diving save from goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell.
The Crew had a chance in the 11th minute, but it was well offside. Aiden Morris bent a corner kick into the area and the pinging ball fell to Aboubacar Keita. Free on goal, his shot rang the underside of the bar and went in. The play was quickly whistled dead and the review didn’t take long to confirm the call.
Columbus had another chance in the 19th minute. Afful found a small bit of space on the sideline and drove a cross over the collapsing NYCFC defense. Zardes powered a header that forced a parrying save from goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The rebounded shot was blocked wide of frame. The Crew was unable to do anything on the resulting corner kick.
The Black & Gold attacking pressure was relentless early on and it paid off with a goal in the 25th minute. The Crew pushed up the left side with a direct pass that forced New York City into the corner. Columbus was able to collect the loose ball with Artur finding space and then Zardes in a pocket of space in the penalty box. The striker found Emmanuel Boateng and the centering ball was deflected, but Zardes corralled it before getting dispossessed. The ball went back to Artur in the right place at the right time. The midfielder took a touch and slotted the ball past Johnson for his first MLS regular season goal.
City tried to up the attacking pressure after the Crew goal and found a lot of the ball There was a little bit of a let-up from the home side, but the defense kept the danger to a minimum. New York City fired off seven shots in the 20 minutes after falling behind, but only three shots were inside the 18-yard box. One of those was blocked and the other two were from tight angles.
NYCFC tried to keep the momentum to start the second half and tested Tarbell early. With space in front of him, Jesus Medina struck a 47th minute shot from distance that required a parry over the bar.
It looked like more of the same from, a relentless drive for a tying goal and a dedicated Crew regard action, but the home team struck against the run of play to extend the lead. After forcing a throw, Derrick Etienne Jr. slipped into a pocket of space along the touchline and centered a pass to Santos. His one time shot easily beat a stranded Johnson to make it 2-0 in the 50th minute.
New York City got on the scoreboard five minutes later, after another set piece letup from the Crew. An Anton Tinnerholm shot put Columbus on the back foot and forced a corner where Medina bent in a service that found the unmarked Valentín Castellanos. The free header was cleanly finished and it was back to a one-goal game.
The visitors pushed on the front foot for the rest of the game, but struggled to break down the committed Crew defense. Despite having a strong possession edge, New York City rarely got a clean look at Tarbell’s goal. The backup backstop was forced into action as Castellanos caused trouble with a pounding tight angle shot. Tarbell was up to the task and kept the slim lead as the game wound into the 70th minute.
Columbus finally turned the relentless NYCFC pressure into a chance and got the insurance goal the team was looking for after they broke out off an NYCFC turnover in stoppage time. Zardes tracked down the long outlet and fed the ball to the rushing Artur. The Brazilian midfielder was brought down under a crunching tackle to earn the penalty. Zardes’ penalty was saved, but he finished the rebound to extend the lead to 3-1.
The Crew saw out the remaining minutes to hold on for the win.
The 3⁄4 letdown
The Crew opened the game looking like the team that lost one game in their first 13. The Black & Gold wanted the ball and pressed ravenously to get it back. It was no surprise that Columbus was up 1-0 just after halfway in the first half. This looked like the MLS leading Crew.
After the goal, it was a different game. Columbus was second to those 50/50 balls the team was winning early on. The Black & Gold couldn’t break the limited New York City pressure. Once on the defensive, the Crew was forced into a low block. The home team looked more like the group that was 0-3-1 in the last four games. The question for the rest of the season will be which Crew team shows up. Will the imminent return of Darlington Nagbe and Eloy Room (and eventually Lucas Zelarayan) turn the tide?
The grueling pace of games is taking its toll on the Crew. Santos was forced out due to injury in the second half after twice going down due to injury. Youness Mokhtar replaced him in the 65th minute and played at the playmaker spot.
Aboubacar Keita and Artur also were down for several minutes after picking up injuries during the run of play. Keita took a shot to the leg and was able to play through the injury. Artur was clearly hobbled after getting fouled in the penalty series. He called for a sub, but the Crew had used all three windows during the game.
With the win, the Crew breaks a four-game winless streak. The Black & Gold move to 10-4-4 on the season and have 34 points and sits in third place in the Eastern Conference, a point behind the Philadelphia Union and five behind Toronto FC.
The Crew travel to Western Conference foe Houston Dynamo for an 8:30 p.m. ET game. The game is scheduled to air on SportsTime Ohio.`