The matchup between Columbus Crew 2 and New York City II was bound to be exciting as the top two teams in MLS NEXT Pro’s Eastern Conference clashed. Following a 3-0 victory, the Black & Gold are now within striking distance of the East crown with 41 points through 18 games.
In, Sunday’s match, it did not take long for the scoring to start. In the second minute, fullback Mohamed Farsi was able to glide around his defender with a cheeky touch to get in behind. After Farsi beat his defender, there was no one to challenge him as he calmly surveilled his options to find a wide open Jacen Russell-Rowe. The Crew 2 striker and leading scorer, decisively slotted the ball into the back of the net. The score, his 14th of the year, put Russell-Rowe solely back on top of the MLS NEXT Pro Golden Boot face. The assist was Farsi’s seventh of the season, moving him to joint the top of that statical department.
It wasn’t long until the Black & Gold struck again. Midfield Sean Zawadzki scored his first goal for Crew 2 in the 12th minute following a poor pass from NYCFC II and an interception. The play put Zawadzki one on one with the goalkeeper at the penalty spot before he calmly put the ball into the back of the net.
New York City had its best chance of the first half in the form of a free kick. The ensuing shot from just outside the penalty box was a scorcher that goalkeeper Patrick Schulte could only watch as it ricocheted off the post. Before the half was over, NYCFC II looked to get an effort on goal that was quickly whistled offsides ending the danger and the half.
Columbus continued a dominant performance in the second half with a Russell-Rowe goal in the 74 minute. Substitute defender Justin Malou was able to create room for himself on the right wing before finding Russel-Rowe in space. The forward put the ball just outside Luis Barraza’s outstretched foot. The goal was Russell-Rowe’s 15th of the season two ahead of John Denis of NYCFC II and three ahead of Jack Lynn of Orlando B and Marlon Vargas of Tacoma.
New York City entered the game leading the Eastern Conference in goals and shots. Columbus was able to shut down the Pigeons’ ability to play long balls over the top with stellar play from Zawadzki and fellow midfielder Isaiah Parente causing disruption and breaking up the flow of the game. With his goal and impressive performance to win tackles all over the pitch, Zawadzki won the man of the match performance.
Crew 2 sits in first place in the conference with only six games to go. Rochester and NYCFC are 11 points back, Rochester also has one game in hand. The victory puts the Black & Gold two points behind Tacoma Defiance who has 43 points in 19 games.
Sunday marked Columbus’ second match at Lower.com Field. Crew 2 will play two more matches at the first team’s home, one against Philadelphia Union II on Aug. 27 and a doubleheader match against the Chicago Fire on Sept. 3.