On Saturday, New York City FC continued the road trip and took on the Columbus Crew in another thrilling Eastern Conference matchup. In the past, the Pigeons struggled in the Crew’s home stadiums, and only won once in the team’s history. As such, they looked to reverse the misfortunes that have plagued them in Columbus.
It would not be easy though, and NYCFC were faced with a difficult task. On a positive note, Maxi Moralez was available off of the bench after picking up a knock in last weekend’s game. Additionally, Anton Tinnerholm was available as well after recovering from his high ankle sprain, and both came on in the second half. Still, Nick Cushing put out a strong lineup, at least on paper, and had a chance to pick up a point or three.
Alas, that was not meant to be, for the Pigeons lost 3-2 to the Crew. The team’s Columbus misfortunes continued, and they are the ones to blame for the result, for poor mistakes ultimately led to the loss.
Meanwhile, there is some concern since Alexander Callens left in the second half with a possible knee injury. He was able to put weight on his knee, but it bent in an unnatural way, so the concern remains. But losing the center-back was not why NYCFC lost.
Mistakes led to the loss on the road for New York City FC
New York City FC started the fixture well, and an own goal by Jonathan Mensah put the team in front in the fourth minute. Unfortunately that only lasted for a little while, for Cucho Hernández drew the match level in the 20th. A few good passes, and an impossible shot to save, led to the goal. There was nothing that Sean Johnson or his defense could do. However, it was the costly mistake, and a rare one too, by Johnson, which led to the second goal for the home team.
In the 27th minute, Johnson,while trying to play out of the back, gave the ball away to Luis Díaz. Right away, the ball was sent to Lucas Zelarayán, who haunts NYCFC both on the pitch and in dreams. The midfielder immediately controlled the ball, and sent a free-kick-like shot toward goal, and into the back the net. Johnson could not reach far enough to save the ball.
It did not stop there though. After the Pigeons tied the game on a Gabriel Pereira goal, a poor giveaway in the midfield led to a perfect pass for Columbus. Anton Tinnerholm ended up fouling in order to prevent an attacking opportunity, and this led to a free kick for Columbus. On the initial free kick, Zelarayán hit the wall, but he and Columbus continued the attack, and NYCFC made the not-so-intelligent move to give the Argentine enough space. As such, he was able to grab his second goal, and the eventual winning goal for the Crew. He continues to haunt the Bronx side, as does playing in Columbus.
That being said, there were quite a few mistakes and giveaways by multiple NYCFC players, including Alexander Callens and Héber. In some ways, it is a miracle that the game did not end with more goals from Columbus. Yet, the Pigeons have to be better, and reduce their mistakes. This is especially true as they now adjust from losing Valentín Castellanos.
This is not to say that the team cannot play without Castellanos. In fact, it is far from that. Rather, they have to adjust and recreate their offensive strategies. Héber can play up front, but he is a player that relies on chances created for him. On the other hand, Castellanos could create chances for himself. Plus, it does not matter what sport, for when a major player leaves, there is always an adjustment period.
Undoubtedly, NYCFC had a much better offensive performance against the Crew compared to the previous weekend’s fixture. This time around, they could not get the job done defensively, and mistakes cost them any points. Also, it is important to look at the positive end of things, and luckily the Philadelphia Union lost their match too.
So, the race for the Eastern Conference is on for New York City FC. Now they just have to combine when they play well offensively and defensively, and fix their mistakes. If they can do that, then the team will be a scary threat for any opposing side, and could make another run for the MLS Cup.