Destined: Columbus has just enough to move into Eastern Conference final

First, Atlanta United. Now New York City FC. Columbus Crew SC has outlasted two of MLS"s biggest-spending clubs to move into the Eastern Conference final.

After winning at Atlanta in a shootout, the Crew used its 4-1 edge from the first leg as just enough of a cushion to hold off No. 2 seed NYCFC in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The 2-0 loss ended its unbeaten streak at 12 games but sent it through to the next round, 4-3, on aggregate.

1. Luck is on the Crew's side again.

New York City FC got goals early in halves to reduce the Crew's lead from 4-1 after Game 1 to 4-3 and needed only one more goal to go ahead in the series on its away goal in Columbus.

Its best chance came in the 70th minute when Rodney Wallace got free in the penalty area but fired his shot off the near post. In the first half, Maxi Moralez also hit the near post. They raised to five in three playoff games the number of shots keeper Zack Steffen has watched ping the woodwork of his goal.

2. Poor decision-making hurts NYCFC.

Despite its bad luck, NYCFC should have scored a third goal. Jack Harrison broke in on goal and had David Villa open to his left, but he tried to beat Steffen, who saved the shot in the 67th minute.

NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira had blamed the margin of defeat in Columbus on poor finishing, and it didn't get better at Yankee Stadium.

“We played really well," he said, "and created chances. We had situations where we didn’t make the best decisions. We scored two goals and I thought the third would come.”

3. FIFA break will allow Crew to rest up.

After four games in two weeks -- three against NYCFC -- the Crew played like it could use a rest. It was on the ropes for much of the second half though late subs Kekuta Manneh and Lalas Abubakar helped stabilize the situation.

"That's something people forget, that we've been running hard," Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. "Between the last game of the season, when you go to Atlanta and play 120 minutes, then back home, and then here again — the guys are tired. They're fatigued, but one thing I can say is they left everything on the field. They gave every ounce of energy and I'm proud of them for that."

The FIFA break will allow the Crew to rest up for the series against Toronto FC. It won't begin for more than two weeks as MLS won't play this weekend not the weekend after that when players on international duty will have returned to their clubs.

The series opens on Nov. 21 in Columbus.

Nov. 5 in Bronx, N.Y.
New York City FC 2 Columbus 0.
NYC: David Villa (pen.) 16
NYC: Andraz Struna (Rodney Wallace) 53
New York City FC -- Johnson; Struna (Okoli 82), Brillant, Sweat, Matarrita (Pirlo 90); Harrison, Herrera, Ring, Wallace (Lewis 90+2); Moralez, Villa.
Columbus -- Steffen; Jimenez, Williams, Mensah, Afful; Abu, Trapp, Santos (Jahn 88), Higuain, Meram (Manneh 69); Kamara (Abubakar 76).
Att.: 23,246.
(Columbus wins 4-3 on aggregate.)
4 comments about "Destined: Columbus has just enough to move into Eastern Conference final".
  1. Andrew Kear, November 6, 2017 at 8:32 a.m.

    What awful timing. Why couldn't this happen when the USMNT was good.

  2. beautiful game, November 6, 2017 at 12:11 p.m.

    Paul, is there a reason why the S.A. game reviews don't mention the best and worst players or team cohesion.

  3. Gordon Holt, November 6, 2017 at 7:02 p.m.

    Do any of these candidates know much more about marketing than the present crew, which seems unable even  to convince the country's biggest papers (NYTimes, for example) to advance a USMNT qualifier. And Major League Soccer? A joke to the Times vs. Europe. Note present coverage of the playoffs v/v regular season play across the Atlantic. Sad. 

  4. feliks fuksman, November 6, 2017 at 8:07 p.m.

    We need to hear more details from the individuals running for USSF presidency; let us know what they think are the major problems, moreover, how they plan to fix them.

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