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Crew falls for first time in 2020 at New York City FC

Columbus struggled offensively in team’s first loss.

Columbus Crew SC v New York City FC Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Columbus Crew SC lost the team’s first game of the season at New York City FC 1-0 on Monday night. Looking flat after a quick turnaround from Thursday’s game and the unusual travel situation to minimize time out of Columbus, the Black & Gold struggled to their first goalless result on the year.

NYCFC, playing at “home” at Red Bull Arena, opened the game with an intensity that suggested they were looking to put the early-season struggles behind them. The Crew struggled to get the ball into the attacking half of the field. The only bright spot early in the first half was when Derrick Etienne set up Gyasi Zardes for a finish, but the play was called back for offside.

While the attack sputtered, the Crew defense held strong throughout the first half. NYCFC had four shots on goal, but only Heber’s attempt in the 26th minute was from inside the 18-yard box and the backline snuffed out the shot. Only Alexander Ring wasn’t blocked, but it came from 25 yards and didn’t trouble Andrew Tarbell’s goal.

The Crew attack had even less success in the first half with only two shots, but the Black & Gold did have the best quality attempt. Luis Diaz was able to use his speed to blow past the City backline, but a strong touch took him too close to Sean Johnson and his shot was snuffed out easily.

Etienne had another attempt in the 37th minute but his shot blazed well over the bar from 25 yards.

After the halftime break, NYCFC came out with renewed energy. The tenacious press forced several rushed decisions from the Crew backline and the home team was able to capitalize. Trying to build from the back, Jonathan Mensah restarted the ball with a pass to Aboubacar Keita. The young center back sent the ball back across the defense, but it was intercepted by Heber. The City forward played it to Ring, who scored in the open net.

This finish caused Columbus to trail for the first time in a regular season game, giving up the goal in the 59th minute.

Columbus continued to struggle mightily on offense through the second half. Despite the introduction of Fanendo Adi and Emmanuel Boateng, the attack failed to truly test the NYCFC backline.

The only real danger came in stoppage time. Harrison Afful intercepted a long goal kick, played a give and go to Pedro Santos and sent a curling grounded cross to Adi. The forward finished the chance but was immediately whistled for offside. The Video Assistant Review decision didn’t even force referee Nima Saghafi to go view the play before the final whistle

Hard Times

NYCFC did everything the team could to keep the game from any sort of rhythm. The result is that the home side tallied 19 fouls in the process. The plan worked. The Crew struggled on offense as the Cityzens pressed relentlessly and ensured that there was a little bite in every tackle.

The Columbus attack misfired with the possession-oriented team only holding the ball 47 percent of the time and recording 76 percent passing accuracy — 10 percent less than in the victory against the Chicago Fire last week.

Saghafi only pulled out two yellow cards on the evening against NYCFC, but there certainly were opportunities for more. The Crew, by contrast, had nine fouls called against and didn’t pick up a card.

Heavy Rotation

With a three-day gap between game days, head coach Caleb Porter chose to heavily rotate the lineup. Chris Cadden, Keita, Hector Jimenez and Sebastian Berhalter came in for the Crew. Andrew Tarbell, Jonathan Mensah and Darlington Nagbe were the only players to go a full 90 in both games. Zardes, Santos, and Luis Diaz started both games but were subbed on the evening.

Coupled with a day-of-game flight to New York, the heavy changes appeared to add to the lack of fluidity to the Black & Gold attack.

What’s Next

Columbus falls to 5-1-1 on the season. The team’s 16 points still lead the Eastern Conference and top the Supporters’ Shield standings. The Crew has a little more time to rest and prepare, facing FC Cincinnati on Saturday night at Nippert Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET.