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.
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.
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
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
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).
(Columbus wins 4-3 on aggregate.)