Desperately needing points to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, the Columbus Crew lost 2-1 to the visiting New York Red Bulls after giving up two goals, including a late score. Miguel Berry’s first half chance was not enough to overcome an uneven defensive effort.
The Red Bulls came out with strong pressure, upsetting the Crew possession attack and creating counter attacking chances early.
That early pressure turned into a lead after the Crew gave up a corner kick in the sixth minute. Thomas Edwards sent in a cross from the right side and Christian Casseres had a free header inside the six-yard box. He made the easy finish and gave the visitors the early lead.
After struggling with the Red Bull press through the first 15 minutes, the Crew started to find a bit more time on the ball.
As the Red Bull press relented, the Crew found their chance to tie the game. HDerrick Etienne found Lucas Zelarayan in a pocket of space. The Argentine caught the run of right back Steven Moreira and Zelarayan swung the ball wide. The Frenchman streamed unmarked into the box and whipped in a cross. Miguel Berry finished off the move with a one touch redirect to tie the game in the 18th minute.
Columbus continued to attack throughout the half, but struggled with the final ball to truly test keeper Carlos Coronel until just before halftime. Etienne caught a long cross by Moreira and drove it right at the Red Bull keeper, forcing a diving save. On the resulting corner kick, Berry attempted an overhead kick on the loose ball, but the shot was blocked.
After struggling at the start, the Crew finished the half strong.
The Red Bulls came out on the front foot in the second half, pushing the Crew defense back towards the Nordecke. The visitors caught their chance to take the lead in the 52nd minute. Halftime sub Wiki Carmona collided with Marlon Hairston and the Columbus midfielder was quickly whistled for the foul.
Referee Alan Kelly wasn’t prompted to review the play and Patryk Klimala stepped up against Eloy Room. The Pole struck a low driving shot left, but inches past the post, keeping the game tied.
After the penalty, the game opened up, but neither could turn the transition chances into quality shots. The Red Bulls were content to shoot from distance while the Crew only had a 61st minute Mensah header in the moments after the penalty call.
The visitors found more chances as the game entered the last 15 minutes. The Red Bulls had chances back to back in the 79th minute, but Room parried Kyle Duncan’s shot wide. After a turnover, the Red Bulls attacked again and Carmona got free, but his shot from 22 yards blazed over the bar.
New York grabbed a just late lead. Collecting a driven cross, Duncan sent in a lofted cross that Klimala headed back across goal. Sean Nealis neatly finished the free header to make it 2-1 Red Bulls in the 87th minute.
Columbus wouldn’t test the Red Bull keeper the final moments of the game as they pushed for a late tie.
The Crew struggled with set pieces and headers on the evening. The visitors took advantage with several chances on the evening, including both goals. Klimala and Nealis both had completely free headers in the Crew six-yard box and took advantage. The goals sent Columbus to its 13th loss on the year. The effect likely sends the Crew’s title defense hopes crashing to the ground.
Crash and Burn
The Crew’s playoff odds were always long, but any hope for a playoff title defense rested on home wins. Tonight’s loss was a missed opportunity to close the gap on the playoff crowd. With the win, the Red Bulls vaulted into the playoffs while the Crew currently stand five points below the red line, currently held by Atlanta United, with three games to play.
Columbus faces Orlando, D.C. United, and Chicago to close the season. Next week the Crew face two teams above them in the standings and are jockeying for position. It’s a hard road and three wins may not even get them into the playoffs.
With the loss, Columbus falls to 10-8-13 on the year with 38 points. The Crew’s brief home stand continues as Orlando City makes their first trip to Lower.com Field on Wednesday for a 7:30 pm game.