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NYCFC blow late lead against Columbus Crew in frustrating 1-1 draw

NYCFC play to a seventh draw in their last eight games after letting a lead drop in the 94th minute while up a man.

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A win was there for the taking for New York City FC at Lower.Com Field on Matchday 23, but they again settled for a disappointing draw, a 1-1 with a 10-man Columbus Crew. 

NYCFC created many scoring chances, multiple of them 1-on-1 situations with Columbus goalkeeper Patrick Schulte. Yet much like at Citi Field midweek against Charlotte FC, finishing hugely let down NYCFC.

The stats did well to capture the futility of NYCFC’s play in the final third. The visitors took 15 shots and put nine on target, yet also missed all five of the “big chances” they created on the night.

While Schulte did provide some keeper heroics in the Columbus goal, making eight saves and seeming impenetrable on the night, Justin Haak still stepped up and delivered a Goal of the Matchday contender. 

Haak became the first-ever NYCFC Homegrown player to score a goal at the MLS level, his outside-of-the-boot finish into the top corner made possible in part by the work of Santiago Rodríguez, who did extremely well to control a long pass and dribbled through a patch of Columbus defenders before teeing up Haak for his shot. Santi has been a chance-creating machine of late, and his performance in Columbus deserved more than just the one assist.

The Haak goal came only a few minutes after Columbus was reduced to 10 when striker Cucho Hernández received his second yellow card for a high boot up near Maxime Chanot’s face. Haak also accomplished the feat of scoring his first-career goal while filling in at his second position of the night, having moved back into his more familiar central midfield position from the 63rd minute on in order to allow defender Thiago Martins to make his return from knee surgery.

Columbus earned its point because NYCFC failed to hold or expand its one-goal lead, the team proving unable to properly manage the final minutes of a tight, testy, back-and-forth affair.

The Crew equalized through a deflected stoppage-time goal from Sean Zawadzki, forcing NYCFC to settle for a seventh draw in their last eight games, and draw number 11 this season, a new club record. 

The draw in Columbus felt like the most frustrating of the bunch, as NYCFC failed to capitalize on the many chances they created and squandered a lead they grabbed in spectacular fashion in the 75th minute.

Game Stats
NYCFC: 15 Shots, 9 On Target, 39.4% Possession, 339 Passes, 81% Pass Success, 8 Fouls
Columbus: 12 Shots, 4 On Target, 60.6% Possession, 521 Passes, 88% Pass Success, 14 Fouls

Chance squandering reaches a new level

The midweek 1-1 draw with Charlotte FC at Citi Field seemed like it would be hard to top for the sheer number of goal-scoring opportunities wasted by NYCFC

Instead NYCFC seemed to double down on the wasteful ways in front of goal, again creating the most, best scoring chances in a match and running up gaudy expected goal numbers only to emerge with one single solitary goal scored, and one single solitary point earned. 

Let’s just quickly run through some of the big scoring chances that went begging during this annoying trip to Ohio:

  • Kevin O’Toole has a free header off a well-worked corner kick in the 25th minute but it’s saved by Schulte;
  • Richy Ledezma gets played into a 1-v-1 with Schulte but puts his shot right into the keeper’s chest in the 29th minute;
  • Ledezma again finds with only Schulte to beat in the 49th minute but again has his shot saved;
  • Santi plays a dime to an unmarked Gabriel Pereira in the 54th minute but his shot is also swatted away by Schulte;
  • Haak longball from the back falls perfectly into the path of Pereira, who seems to dribble around Schulte and open up the goal for a finish, but GP11 trips over his own two feet and the 60th minute move dies;
  • Pereira tries chipping the keeper in the 63rd minute but Schulte gets back in time to push the effort over the crossbar.

Creating all those chances on the road against a team that had won nine of its 12 home games to date this season would seem to have set NYCFC up for success. Instead, the New York City chances dried up late in the game after Columbus went down a man and Justin Haak got his 75th-minute breakthrough. 

Generating nearly two expected goals (1.71 xG on the night) and all those above-mentioned scoring chances, yet finishing with just the one goal and having to settle for another 1-1 draw? 

That long-rumored new striker signing (or maybe Neymar?) cannot arrive soon enough. 

The historic Haak crack 

It’s taken all the way to NYCFC’s ninth season of MLS competition for the team to get its first goal scored by a Homegrown academy product, but the wait was worth it given the quality of strike produced by Justin Haak. 

Haak had some fingers pointed in his direction for a shaky performance against Charlotte on Wednesday, but he was right back out there in Columbus to make his eighth consecutive start as a center back as part of manager Nick Cushing’s now-preferred three-center-back defensive alignment. 

Haak has solidified his center back play since being put into the role. His defensive awareness has improved and he’s started picking out some excellent long passes from the back that have broken opponent lines and sprung promising NYCFC attacks–he completed four of his five attempted long balls against the Crew, and twice could have set teammates up to score.

The goal actually came when Haak was asked by Cushing to push back up into the midfield to close out the Columbus game. The 21-year-old from Brooklynite looked to reach his full box-to-box potential while splitting the Crew’s defense and powering his shot home after collecting the pass from Santi. A goal good enough to be a match-winner, but not meant to be one thanks to that Zawadzki equalizer. 

Thiago Martins returning to health might muddle up the center back playing time picture, but Haak didn’t seem any worse for wear playing back in the midfield. After experiencing the ups and downs to be expected of a young player breaking in at the professional level, Justin Haak now looks to be finding his footing with NYCFC in MLS. 

Everybody leaves frustrated 

Columbus and its fans had lots of ire to direct at referee Sergii Boiko, who handed out some questionable yellow cards to prominent Crew players for dissent and ultimately ended up sending off their striker, head coach, and another coaching staff member.  

NYCFC walks away with frustrations aplenty after missing all those prime goal opportunities and conceding another late back-breaking goal while enjoying a man advantage. In fact, New York City should be most disappointed about how they faded from the game after Cucho Hernández was sent off, unable to snuff the life out of the Crew even after taking the lead.

This has to be viewed as two points dropped rather than one point earned, even if, in a vacuum, a draw away to a red-hot Columbus team that’s scored the most goals in MLS would normally be considered a positive result. 

Draws can’t be seen as positives anymore for a team that is stuck way down at 13th in the Eastern Conference. The season is slipping away and NYCFC are giving themselves little to no margin of error if they expect to correct the course of their season and put together another late-year run that helps them make the playoffs. 

If that dream is to become a reality after the Leagues Cup during the MLS Regular Season’s final stretch, NYCFC can’t afford to play many more games like the one they played in Columbus.

NYCFC, Justin Haak, 75’
Columbus, Sean Zawadzki, 90’+4’ 

NYCFC, Luis Barraza, Yellow Card, Time Wasting 13′
Columbus, Lucas Zelarayán, Yellow Card, Dissent 41’
Columbus, Cucho Hernandez, Yellow Card, Dissent 45’+2’
Columbus, Malte Amundsen, Yellow Card, Foul 57’
Columbus, Darlington Nagbe, Yellow Card, Foul 64’
NYCFC, Santiago Rodríguez, Yellow Card, Dissent 68’
Columbus, Cucho Hernandez, Second Yellow Card+Red Card, Foul 68’
Columbus, Sean Zawadzki, Yellow Card, Foul 85’
Columbus, Wilfried Nancy (head coach), Red Card, Dissent 86’
Columbus, Member of Technical Staff, Red Card, Dissent 86’
NYCFC, Braian Cufré, Yellow Card, Dissent 90’+8’ (Suspended next match)
Columbus, Miloš Degenek, Yellow Card, Foul 90’+9’
NYCFC, Justin Haak, Yellow Card, Foul 90’+12’ 

Attendance: 20,533 

Referee: Sergii Boiko
Assistant Referees: Jeremy Kieso & Justin Howard
Fourth Official: Ricardo Fierro
VAR: Alejandro Mariscal
Assistant VAR: Joshua Patlak