Coming off the momentum of a record-breaking tie with FC Cincinnati, the Columbus Crew took down New York City FC 2-1 for the second time this season and the team’s first win in Lower.com Field. The second-ever game in the Crew’s new home held all kinds of excitement for Crew fans, and they went home happy thanks to goals from midfielder Darlington Nagbe and, unsurprisingly, midfielder Lucas Zelarayan.
The Black & Gold were missing more players due to injury and international call-ups than they were against FC Cincinnati, but they still managed to come together and take the win for the first time since June 19. Columbus has now only lost one of the team’s last eight games and is currently on a four-game unbeaten streak.
Both NYCFC and the Crew created some early chances, but City was firing and goalkeeper Eloy Room was forced to come up with a huge one-handed save in the fourth minute to keep the Black & Gold from conceding early again.
A handball in the ninth minute off of right back Saad Abdul-Salaam awarded NYCFC a penalty kick and Abdul-Salaam a yellow card. The play ended up going to Video Assistant Review and was determined to be just outside the box for a free kick for the visitors rather than a penalty kick, much to Columbus’ relief. The shot went off the wall and safely away from the Crew net.
The Black & Gold came back with a huge chance in the 15th minute. Some Nagbe magic in the midfield gave Abdul-Salaam, coming down the right, a clear cross to forward Miguel Berry, who forced New York City goalkeeper Luis Barraza to come up with a big save to keep it even.
Columbus well through the channels and spending a lot of time in the final third. City’s defense was solid but forced to fight to keep up. When NYCFC made it back down to the other end of the field, Room was forced to come up big again, and from there ,the Crew got lucky. The goalkeeper blocked the first shot but New York City came in on the rebound header and hit it just wide.
On the next big save Room had some help. He stopped the first ball again but the second shot was stuffed by the pair of center backs, Jonathan Mensah and young Aboubacar Keita, sliding in to stop it. Mensah was slow to get up after the tough play and it seemed NYCFC was getting more and more dangerous by the minute.
Zelarayan took his first dangerous shot in the 32nd minute, seeing a small opening on the left and ripping an attempt from just outside the 18-yard box, but the shot went just wide.
NYCFC began to get frustrated and played very physically. They were up to six fouls and two yellow cards by the 34th minute while the Crew was whistled for just three fouls and one yellow.
Nagbe got his well-deserved breakthrough after a dominating first half in the second minute of first half stoppage time. The midfielder came all the way down the right and chipped Barraza when he came off his line to put the Black & Gold up heading into the locker room. It was Nagbe’s first goal this season and third for Columbus
The first half wasn’t the Crew’s finest, but the late goal and the fact that the team didn’t concede early were big positives considering the trend of the group lately. Considering the strength of NYCFC’s attacking four, the Black & Gold handled this group well.
Columbus’ momentum coming out of the locker room was quickly dashed. A scramble in the penalty box in the 48th minute left Room flat footed and the game even once again. The Crew defense just couldn’t clear the ball and Jesus Medina was able to strike one just to Room’s left.
The Black & Gold seemed disjointed and Room had to come up with another big two-handed save in the 50th minute. In the 55th minute, the goalkeeper made back-to-back saves, stopping a rocket and the rebound to keep the Black & Gold level.
Columbus won a free kick in the 61st minute in perfect range for some Zelarayan magic, and that’s just what they got. The Argentine continued to prove head coach Caleb Porter right in saying he is the best attacking player in the league when he curled the free kick strike up over the wall and past Barraza. It was his third free kick goal against NYCFC this season.
In the 64th minute Bradley Wright-Phillips was subbed on for Berry, making his first appearance for the Black & Gold since May 29 due to injury.
The Crew’s confidence returned following the second goal and the team seemed much more sure on the ball and able to control the City attack. Seven minutes of added time in the second half, that included a corner kick and a free kick, was not enough for NYCFC to come back and the Crew took all three points for the first time at Lower.com Field.
The Black & Gold have conceded first in their past four games and their record was 0-1-3. This week, Porter talked about how his team is different when it goes up first instead. He pointed out that the Crew was 15-1-1 when scoring first last season.
“The way we play if we get the first goal, we’re very difficult to beat,” Porter said. And he was right.
It was refreshing to see Columbus play from ahead, not behind. Though the Black & Gold conceded quickly, there was a confidence there that fans don’t see when playing from behind. NYCFC hasn’t been held off the scoreboard all year, so it was no surprise they snagged one back. But with a lineup that was missing 12 guys, any win is huge.
Scarves up for Kivi
The Nordecke put together a touching tribute in the 80th minute when Crew fans all over the stadium put up their scarves in honor of Columbus Blue Jackets goalkeeper Matiss Kivlenieks, who passed away earlier this month as a result of a firework accident. They put up a Tifo with the two teams' mascots embracing. Captain Jonathan Mensah attended one of the tifo painting sessions earlier this week.
The Crew stays home for a midweek clash with Nashville SC on Wednesday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Nashville sits in fifth in the Eastern Conference but has yet to win on the road this season.