The Columbus Crew entered Sunday’s second leg against NYCFC with a three-goal advantage, and they needed every one of those three goals to survive their trip to Yankee Stadium.
NYCFC mustered a pair of goals on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to overturn a 4-1 first leg beatdown. When all was said and done, the Crew narrowly held on, winning the Eastern Conference semi-final series, 4-3, to book a date with Toronto FC.
Within 16 minutes, NYCFC pulled back one of the needed goals through a penalty kick. After Rodney Wallace was brought down in the box by Josh Williams, David Villa stepped up and buried from the spot to pull NYCFC within two.
From there, both sides enjoyed extended spells of possession with NYCFC closing the half with a major flurry but no goal. Maxi Moralez’s shot off the post in the 38th minute was the closest the hosts came heading towards the halftime break.
The second half got started with a bang as an own goal brought NYCFC back within one. A shot from fullback Andrasz Struna took a deflection off of Jonathan Mensah and in, pushing the score to 2-0 on the day and 4-3 on aggregate.
From there, NYCFC dominated the ball, pushing at what appeared to be a shell-shocked Crew defense. Moralez’s 64th minute header went just wide in what was one of the better chances before Zack Steffen got down to save a Jack Harrison breakaway just moments later. The next chance fell to Wallace, who fired a shot past Steffen but off the post in the 70th minute.
It was as close as NYCFC would come, as the Crew held off the comeback attempt to advance to face Toronto FC, starting with a home match on Nov. 21.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Rodney Wallace stepped up in a major way with his team in need of three goals. He drew the opening penalty kick before assisting Struna on the second following a spectacular run through the midfield.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Wallace’s shot off the post in the 70th minute proved as close as NYCFC would come as the comeback fell just short on home turf.
MATCH TO FORGET
When Jonathan Mensah is on his game, the Crew look like an MLS Cup contender. When he isn’t? The Crew settle for defeats like Sunday’s.