The Columbus Crew shook off an early deficit against a tough New York Red Bulls side, and put together a strong second half on the way to the team’s first playoff win under head coach Caleb Porter.
Second-half strikes from Darlington Nagbe and Gyasi Zardes, both set up by former Red Bull Derrick Etienne Jr., helped the Crew to a 3-2 victory at Mapfre Stadium on Saturday.
The victory moves the Crew into the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they will face the winner of Tuesday’s Toronto FC-Nashville SC quarterfinal.
Things were looking good for the Red Bulls early on, even opening the scoring in the 23rd minute. Seventeen-year-old Caden Clark was left unmarked in the box when Crew defender Harrison Afful’s clearance landed to his feet. Clark connected with a half volley with his left, notching his third goal of the year.
The hosts were only behind for four minutes when Crew midfielder Pedro Santos drew a foul inside the penalty area. The 32-year-old forced New York midfielder Dru Yearwood into a poorly-timed challenge, and converted the penalty kick soon after.
Similar to the opening goal, Darlington Nagbe gave the Crew the lead under a minute into the second half. A shot from Derrick Etienne Jr. was parried by Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara right into the middle of the penalty area. Nagbe made no mistake, firing past Meara to give the Crew the lead.
Etienne Jr., a former Red Bulls player and academy product, gave his former side a bigger hurdle to jump in the 68th minute when his cross found striker Gyasi Zardes at the far post. Zardes timed his jump perfectly to deliver a perfect header over Ryan Meara.
Second-half substitute Brian White cut the Crew’s lead in half, getting on the end of a Jared Stroud cross in the 90th minute. The Red Bulls continued to fight for an equalizer but fell short, losing in the first match under new head coach Gerhard Struber.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Gyasi Zardes. Zardes is no stranger to finding the back of the net, scoring what would become the game-winner in this one. The 29-year-old’s run found him space from New York defenders Aaron Long and Jason Pendant and finished calmly with his head.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Missed Chance. Brian White’s 90th-minute goal put Caleb Porter and the Crew on the edge of their seats for the remainder of stoppage time. With just moments left in the match, Red Bulls striker Tom Barlow found the ball at his feet inside the box but was left disappointed when his golden chance fell straight at Eloy Room in goal.
MATCH TO FORGET
Dru Yearwood. Just minutes after his side took the lead, Yearwood’s reckless challenge in the box gave the Crew an avoidable equalizer from the penalty spot. Yearwood’s night came to an early end, as he was replaced by Cristian Cásseres Jr in the 51st minute.