Midway through New York City FC’s game with the Columbus Crew last night, I was chatting with some of my fellow writers about my less-than-enthusiastic on the match — at this point, the Crew had just pulled ahead only moments after NYCFC equalized. Our very own Raf Rivera put it quite simply — the Crew are a “bogey team” for the Boys in Blue, much in the vein of the rival New York Red Bulls. No matter how good City are or how meandering the Crew are, the two always play close and competitive games against each other.
Last night was no different. In a back-and-forth affair that featured both the dazzling and the bizarre, NYCFC and Columbus fought each other to a 2-2 stalemate that is sure to be eye-candy to the casual/neutral viewer.
The Pigeons struggled early on, with goalkeeper Sean Johnson being forced into action multiple times within the first 15 minutes. NYCFC would eventually get into a rhythm, but the Crew would be the ones to fire the opening salvo.
In the 25th minute, the Crew spurred a counter-attack with found Pedro Santos attempting to get in behind on the right wing. Alexander Callens tracked the Portuguese midfielder and the two made contact in the box. Referee Joe Dickerson immediately whistled the play dead and awarded Columbus the penalty, a decision that was met with fierce protest from Callens and NYCFC.
To avoid sounding like a homer, I 100% agree with Callens. It was an extremely soft penalty, especially considering what Dickerson had let slide previously (Maxi Moralez being pulled, Héber being run over, etc.). Regardless, the official withheld the original decision and Gyasi Zardes stepped up to take the penalty. Predictably, the spot shot was drilled in and Columbus had an early 1-0 lead.
For the remainder of the first 45 minutes and change, Columbus seemed like the better team despite losing the possession battle. They pressed high, created the more dangerous chances, and prevented NYCFC from getting a single shot on frame.
The second half saw the teams more balanced. New York City was finally starting to put it together in the midfield and up top. A late first-half injury to Ben Sweat and continued mediocrity forced manager Domé Torrent to change approach and sub on Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and switch the team’s shape from the 3-4-3 to the 4-3-3, a tactical change we saw last week against the Chicago Fire. Unlike last week, however, this change seemed to spark the NYCFC attack as they began creating more promising chances and better build-up play.
City would see these changes play dividends in the 57th minute when a beautiful counter-attack that started from a throw from Johnson and eventually worked its way all the way to Tajouri-Shradi. The Libyan winger centered the ball to Moralez, who ever-so-delicately — if not, accidentally — touched it into the path of Héber who buried the opportunity and leveled the game a 1-1.
Only moments later, however, the Crew would pull ahead once more.
An errant pass from Alexander Ring would find the feet of David Accam, who then found Pedro Santos unmarked on the right flank. Santos would curl the ball past Johnson to retake the 2-1 advantage for Columbus.
After some ebb and flow, it would be NYCFC that had the last word. And boy, was it a word.
In the 76th minute — not long after being subbed in for Ebenezer Ofori — Taty Castellanos found himself in space with the ball from approximately 30 yards away from goal. Despite have Alexandru Mitrita as an immediate option to his left, the Argentinean took a chance from distance. The shot was perfectly struck and future Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen could do nothing to stop it. The game was equalized, and in a huge way.
Check it out for yourself. If this goal isn’t Goal of the Week, then MLS’s standards are absolute horseshit.
Watch it again and again and again... pic.twitter.com/qzgW3xeBqD— New York City FC (@NYCFC) June 2, 2019
From there, the game became much more wide open and became a war of attrition to the finish. Despite multiple chances on both sides, the war finished at a 2-2 stalemate in which both teams took home a share of the spoils.
Next up: NYCFC finally returns home to take on expansion side FC Cincinnati on Thursday, June 6. This marks their last regular season game until June 29 due to a short international break.