New York City FC’s attack has struggled without star playmaker Maxi Moralez, and Monday night was shaping up to continue that trend, but a gift from the Columbus Crew helped NYCFC find a goal and much-needed win.
Alexander Ring scored to cap a quick counterattack after Crew defender Aboubacar’s lazy pass was picked off and turned into NYCFC’s best chance of the night. Ring finished off a pass from Heber for the 59th-minute winner in a 1-0 victory over the Crew.
The win was NYCFC’s second win of the season, while the defeat was the first official loss of the campaign for the Crew.
The match, played at Red Bull Arena, pitted the first-place Crew against last-place NYCFC, but there was very little separating the two sides in a first half that produced a single shot on goal.
Moralez missed his second straight match with the same calf injury that cost him time during the MLS is Back Tournament, leading NYCFC boss Ronny Deila to deploy a defensive-minded midfield with Alex Ring, Keaton Parks and James Sands as his central midfield triangle against a Crew midfield led by Darlington Nagbe.
Neither side found much rhythm, but NYCFC came out with more energy to start the second half, putting the pressure on the visitors, leading to the eventual turnover that decided the game.
Keita sent a lazy lateral pass in his own defensive third that was picked off by Heber, who raced in on goal and laid a pass off to Ring for the finish.
The Crew failed to muster much of a response after the Ring goal, with Sean Johnson rebounding from his disappointing performance in last week’s loss to the New York Red Bulls without a shutout.
The victory helped NYCFC climb out of last place in the East, moving from 14th place to 10th place. The Crew are still in first place in the East, a point ahead of red-hot Toronto FC.
NYCFC will look to build on Monday’s win when it plays host to the struggling Chicago Fire on Saturday at Red Bull Arena. The Crew return to action on Saturday with a road trip to take on Ohio rival FC Cincinnati.
Man of the Match
James Sands. In a match with plenty of high-level talent in midfield, it was Sands who had the most influence in the middle, completing the most passes and delivering the most successful tackles to help NYCFC neutralize Nagbe and the Crew.
Moment of the Match
Aboubacar Keita’s terrible turnover, which Heber turned into the game-winning counterattack.
Match to Forget
Keita had a solid game right up until the costly turnover, but after that he was clearly shaken and had his confidence take a big hit.