The Columbus Crew SC were beaten at their own game on Saturday night, outpossessed and outpassed by the New York Red Bulls en route to a 2-1 defeat. Two second half goals and the ejection of playmaker Federico Higuain proved too much for Gregg Berhalter’s team to overcome.
Major League Soccer’s decision to ignore the international soccer calendar deprived the team of several regular starters. With national teams across the world – including the United States – playing friendlies against one another, Crew SC needed to replace their left flank. Waylon Francis was with the Costa Rican national team, while Justin Meram played with Iraq. Holding midfielder Wil Trapp was also absent, albeit with an injury.
Left back Chris Klute made his competitive debut at left back, becoming the 224th player in team history to appear in official competition. Kristinn Steindorsson replaced Meram at the left wing, while Mohammed Saeid paired with Tony Tchani at holding midfield.
New York disrupted the Columbus game plan almost from the opening whistle. Berhalter’s emphasis on possession and passing accuracy typically means that Crew SC finishes any game with an edge in those categories, even in a loss. Saturday night, however, ended with New York leading not only on the scoreboard but also in passes completed (436 – 403), passing accuracy (76% – 71%) and time of possession (50.6% – 49.4%).
The visitors nearly took the lead early in the first half when Sal Zizzo hit the crossbar from a cross. Chris Klute’s pass in midfield was off target, allowing New York not only to win possession but also find space behind him on a counter attack. Lloyd Sam took advantage, getting in a cross that picked out Zizzo unmarked in front of goal.
Columbus had a similar chance to open the scoring at the end of the first half when Ethan Finlay found Federico Higuain with a cross of his own. Higuain’s sidewinding shot was under more pressure than Zizzo’s but ultimately also ended up narrowly over the crossbar.
New York finally took the lead shortly after halftime when center back Emanuel Pogatetz was whistled for taking down Lloyd Sam in the area. Bradley Wright-Phillips converted the penalty kick, placing his shot just inside Steve Clark’s right post. The goalkeeper correctly anticipated the direction, but the ball was just beyond his outstretched hand.
Less than a minute later, Clark was called into action again as Columbus lost their defensive shape after the first goal.
Tony Tchani equalized for the home team near the hour mark. Kei Kamara was robbed by a stellar kick save by New York goalkeeper Luis Robles, but the ensuing corner kick bounced through the goalmouth to Tony Tchani, who shot home past the unguarded back post.
New York’s second, and ultimately winning, goal came from another gift of possession. Center back Michael Parkhurst found himself on the ball, under pressure and too far upfield, and passed aimlessly behind him. Mike Grella, having just entered the game moments before, was the closest to the loose ball and with one touch chipped a shot precisely past Clark’s desperate lunge.
Columbus playmaker Federico Higuain was ejected late in the second half after an ill-advised expression of frustration over a foul called by Sorin Stoica. Punching the ball away and screaming, he earned his second yellow card of the game after having already been cautioned for a late tackle on Damien Perrinelle.
Crew SC’s Aaron Schoenfeld, himself a second half substitute, nearly found an equalizer in the dying minutes of the game. A cross from the left by Tony Tchani landed on the back of Schoenfeld’s head and bounced toward the far post, but Robles managed to scramble away and grab the ball in time.
What it means
Columbus falls to a record of one win and two losses on the young season. New York is now the only unbeaten team in the Eastern Conference, atop the standings with two wins and a draw from three games played.
Columbus will be idle next weekend, and play the following two games on the road. Their first midweek game of the year comes on Wednesday, April 8th in Vancouver, followed three days later with a visit to New England. Their next home game will be April 18th as they host expansion Orlando.
Timeline of events
2′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – headed clear)
11′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – return header saved by Luis Robles)
15′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – headed wide by Tony Tchani)
17′ Caution, Damien Perrinelle (professional foul on Federico Higuain)
19′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – no shot taken)
23′ Corner kick, New York (left side – out of bounds)
26′ Corner kick, Columbus (left side – cleared)
39′ Caution, Federico Higuain (dangerous tackle on Damien Perrinelle)
41′ Corner kick, Columbus (left side – headed clear)
48′ Penalty kick, Emanuel Pogatetz fouls Loyd Sam
49′ 0-1 Bradley Wright-Phillips (penalty kick)
50′ Corner kick, New York (left side – headed clear)
56′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – shot blocked from Tony Tchani)
58′ Corner kick, Columbus (left side – goal by Tony Tchani)
58′ 1-1 Tony Tchani (unassisted)
62′ Corner kick, New York (left side – headed clear)
64′ Ben Speas replaces Kristinn Steindorsson
66′ Mike Grella replaces Sal Zizzo
67′ 1-2 Mike Grella (unassisted)
69′ Corner kick, New York (left side – Miazga header over the crossbar)
74′ Hector Jimenez replaces Ethan Finlay
82′ Dane Richards replaces Bradley Wright-Phillips
82′ Aaron Schoenfeld replaces Chris Klute
83′ Caution, Federico Higuain (dissent)
84′ Ejection, Federico Higuain (second caution)
86′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – headed clear)
87′ Corner kick, Columbus (right side – no shot taken)
92+ Anatole Abang replaces Lloyd Sam
94+ Caution, Chris Duvall (dangerous tackle on Tony Tchani)
Steve Clark, Hernan Granan, Michael Parkhurst, Emanuel Pogatetz, Chris Klute (Aaron Schoenfeld 82′), Mohammed Saeid, Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay (Hector Jimenez 74′), Federico Higuain, Kristinn Steindorsson (Ben Speas 64′), Kei Kamara
Matt Lampson, Chad Barson, Tyson Wahl, Kevan George
New York Red Bulls
Luis Robles, Chris Duvall, Damien Perrinelle, Matt Miazga, Anthony Wallace, Lloyd Sam (Anatole Abang 92+), Dax McCarty, Felipe, Sacha Kljestan, Sal Zizzo (Mike Grella 66′), Bradley Wright-Phillips (Dane Richards 82′)
Kyle Reynish, Shawn McLaws, Sean Davis, Connor Lade