Following 120 minutes against Atlanta United in the knockout round five days earlier, many wondered how much energy the Columbus Crew would have on Tuesday against New York City FC.
Gregg Berhalter’s side answered their critics with a emphatic 4-1 first leg victory at MAFPRE Stadium. The Crew received goals from four different players, while NYCFC played most of the second-half with 10 men.
Ola Kamara’s close-range finish in the sixth-minute opened the scoring after Sean Johnson could not hang onto Federico Higuain’s previous effort. It was the Norweigan’s 18th goal of the season, and his third of the month of October.
NYCFC’s chances at a comeback took a major hit as Alexander Callens was sent off after earning a straight red card. The 25-year-old took out Justin Meram and referee Alan Kelly sent him off after video review.
Artur doubled the advantage for the Crew in the 58th minute as he slid home Higuain’s assist past a diving Johnson. Things got even worse for NYCFC in the 69th minute as Meram finished from a fast break which extended the hosts lead to 3-0.
After missing a golden opportunity to score earlier in the match, Villa pulled an away goal back for the visitors in the 78th minute from a left-footed finish. It was the Spaniard’s 23rd goal of the season.
Harrison Afful then danced past several NYCFC defenders and slid home the Crew’s fourth goal in stoppage time, stamping the final score at 4-1 and sealing a resounding win for the hosts.
NYCFC return home for the second leg on Sunday, Nov. 5th looking to overturn a major deficit.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Federico Higuain was huge for the Crew, assisting on two of the team’s three goals. The 33-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down, and will be huge if the team wants to continue on through the postseason.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
David Villa striking the post in the first-half really was the best effort offensively for NYCFC. If that ball goes in and we have a 1-1 halftime scoreline, the final outcome easily could have been different going into the second leg.
MATCH TO FORGET
Alex Callens has been a huge part of NYCFC’s defensive scheme this season, but on Tuesday he was poor. The 25-year-old defender was sent off and really opened the doors for the Crew to add to their lead. Now Patrick Vieira will have some decisions to make defensively with Callens suspended.