In front of a socially distanced crowd on a rare Tuesday night, the Columbus Crew welcomed the New York Red Bulls to Lower.com Field for Hispanic Heritage Night. It was Spanish-born Crew cult hero, Miguel Berry, that put the Black & Gold back in the win column and the playoff hunt in a come from behind 2-1 victory.
At the first minute, trouble befell the Crew when fullback Pedro Santos and Red Bulls defender Kyle Duncan went up for the ball and their heads collided. Columbus used a concussion substitution and brought in Saad Abdul-Salaam, who in a way started his first match since Columbus’ 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders on Aug. 21.
Columbus and New York each had spells of possession throughout the first half, but it was the Black & Gold with the first real chance of the night. Winger Luis Diaz timed a run perfectly and was on a breakaway just to the left of goal. On the run, Diaz skied a shot into the display of Hispanic nation flags in the Nordecke.
New York ended up making the most of their opportunities.
In the 10th minute, goalkeeper Eloy Room made a match-changing diving glove save. Red Bull forward Patryk Klimala volleyed a shot with power. Room dove to his right to keep the match deadlocked, but not for long.
Klimala had a much less poetic shot in the 25th minute, but it was enough to put New York in the lead. Off a throw-in, the Black & Gold failed to clear a ball that bounced through the penalty box. Midfielder Dru Yearwood jumped between Crew defender Jonathan Mensah and midfielder Marlon Hairston, and the ball landed right at the feet of Klimala who buried the chance.
Outside of set pieces, that weren’t clinical enough to challenge Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Miguel Coronel, the Crew was stuck near the Northwest corner flag. New York kept the Black & Gold on the wings and few crosses resulted from the positioning of Columbus’ offense. In most cases, they turned into throw-ins or passing back to their defensive half of the field.
The Crew managed just two shots on goal in the first half. Abdul-Salaam provided the first when he tried to catch Carlos Coronel too far up the 18-yard-box. The lobbing attempt forced the keeper to track back and make the save, but wasn’t much of a challenge.
Midfielder Lucas Zelarayan provided the second shot at the end of the first half. Columbus broke into the penalty area, and after a couple of favorable ricochets, Zelarayan chipped in an attempt that forced Carlos Coronel to make another leaping save.
Coming out in the second half, the Crew made adjustments that put themselves in better positions to break through the New York defense. Specifically, Zelarayan moving out of the center of the field and to the left sideline for offensive attacks.
In the 60th minute, head coach Caleb Porter tried to give the Black & Gold offense a boost, replacing Derrick Etienne Jr. for Alexandru Matan. The rare triple-sub for the Crew’s leader also brought in midfielder Liam Fraser and center back Josh Williams.
Within two minutes of coming into the match, the substitutions almost paid dividends. Fraser sent in a booming pass to winger Luis Diaz, that was deflected for a corner. On the corner, Matan tried a curling attempt on net, going wide of the goal.
Even with Columbus pushing practically everyone but Room into the offensive half of the pitch, New York defense held strong. The first 20 minutes of the Red Bulls offensive second half was highlighted by poor passing and little pressure on the Crew defense.
The Crew offense played like a team wanting to keep their jobs. In the 74th minute, the building second half pressure turned into an equalizer. Matan dribbled the ball through four Red Bull defenders and put a close-range shot on goal. That saved shot by Carlos Coronel turned into a headed goal off the crossbar by midfielder Darlington Nagbe.
Columbus continued pressing on offense, like the team was still down a goal. The 88th minute finally saw the breakthrough that the Black & Gold needed, and after a half of full focus on the offensive half, the Crew shifted to defense and held New York’s final onslaught as Miguel Berry scored the game-winning goal with a composed finish in the penalty box.
The Legend Continues
It started as a future fun trivia question for an in-state rivalry, with sophomore professional Berry scoring three goals in two matches against FC Cincinnati. The first giving the Crew a comeback draw and the other two securing a victory. Berry is showing that he’s much more than a blip in Black & Gold history. He’s here, making the most of his chances, and scoring five goals in eight late-season appearances.
Berry held his composure, ducked and dodged in the penalty area and once again propelled Columbus to a victory.
After a run of poor results for the Crew, a home win like this means a lot for morale and in the MLS standings. That victory puts Columbus within a point of the playoff line, with 30 points. Even though they have two more games played than the teams ahead of them in the hunt, the Black & Gold can’t afford to drop points at home.
Columbus gets just four days off before the team travels to Boston to face the top team in the MLS, the New England Revolution. Although it looks like a lopsided affair in the standings, the Crew clawed back from two goals down against the Revolution in their last time meeting, at the grand opening of Lower.com Field on July 3.
Supporters hope the momentum of this home victory makes the flight to the Northeast.