The Columbus Crew suffered a very uncharacteristic 4-1 loss Friday night to New York City FC on the road. It was the Crew’s fourth loss of the season, but the biggest margin of defeat by far. The loss snapped a six-match unbeaten streak for the Black & Gold and a three-match win streak against NYCFC.
Statistically, the Crew got destroyed. Though Columbus had the edge in possession, City finished the night with 24 shots and nine on frame compared to the Crew’s nine shots and one on goal. Clearly, it was not a good night for the visitors on either end of the field.
The Black & Gold didn’t take pull a goal back until the 96th minute when Pedro Santos drew a penalty kick and put it away for his first goal of the season.
Lucas Zelarayan took the Crew’s first real chance of the game in the eighth minute with a rocket from just inside the 18-yard box that deflected off the hip of an NYCFC defender. Neither side looked dangerous on the attack early.
The 14th minute saw advantage go the way of the hosts. A poorly defended corner kick left two Pigeon attackers coming in on the far post and Valentin Castellanos didn’t leave Eloy Room much of a chance to stop his header. It was questionable whether the ball went out for a corner or a goal kick, but regardless the Crew was forced to play from behind once again.
The battle was in the midfield but Columbus was getting the edge in possession, up 56 percent to 44 percent but offensive production was still slow.
NYCFC capitalized on a Columbus mistakes in the 35th minute to double the lead when a long ball from the midfield landed at the feet of Thiago Andrade who caught Room way off his line and the defenders scrambling to get back. The chip found the back of the net as the attacker celebrated by taking off his shirt.
New York City came out of the locker room with an intensity that the Crew failed to match early in the second half. Columbus still controlled possession but was outmatched in every other area statistically, with City at eight shots with two on goal to start the second half while the Black & Gold only had four shots and none on goal.
And then the Crew fell apart.
In the 51st minute, New York City had several chances that Room was able to shut down, but no one followed up to help him out and he was unable to make the second save on a shot from Keaton Parks to make the game 3-0.
Zelarayan missed a huge chance in the 56th minute, collecting a ball just in front of the goal and getting enough pace on it but sending it just wide. It seemed nothing was going to go the Black & Gold’s way.
Head coach Caleb Porter tried to give Columbus a push in the 62nd minute, putting in Saad Abdul-Salaam, Derrick Etienne Jr. and Erik Hurtado for Harrison Afful, Luis Diaz and Bradley Wright-Phillips respectively. The impact wasn’t big enough as the second half droned on for the Crew.
In the 71st minute, Columbus thought it had escaped the nail in the coffin when NYCFC scored a fourth goal that was called offside. Santiago Rodriguez caught a deflection off of a Room save and buried it. The play went to Video Assistant Referee and the call was quickly reversed to give New York City a fourth goal.
When all seemed lost for the Crew, the team got a breath of air in the sevnth minute of stoppage time when the Black & Gold were awarded a penalty kick after a from-behind foul from the Pigeons defense. Santos buried it to prevent the shutout, but it was still a relief for Columbus to hear the final whistle.
The Black & Gold rode a six-game unbeaten run into Friday night. The run was unexpected but encouraging as Porter and his team have dealt with a serious lack of depth due to international call-ups and injuries. However, with the squad nearly back to full strength with a few exceptions, a defeat like this was unexpected. Whether it was due to overconfidence or simply an off day, it was not a good day to be a Crew fan.
Every game and every team requires unique strategies and tactics, but traveling to NYCFC brings a different set of challenges. City plays in Yankee Stadium on top of the baseball outfield, which makes for a very narrow field and a very difficult style of play, especially for visiting teams who isn’t used to playing there.
As evidence, in three games at Yankee Stadium this year, NYCFC has two 5-0 wins and one 1-1 draw.
The Black & Gold come home next week for a two-game homestand. D.C. United comes to Lower.com Field on Wednesday, Aug. 4 for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff. The two teams have not met since May 8 which saw the Crew snag a 3-1 victory. D.C. currently sits at eighth place in the Eastern Conference.