NYCFC Goals: Villa 16mins, Mensah (O.G) 53mins
A Quick Look...
New York City FC could hardly have come closer to producing one of the great MLS Playoffs comebacks vs. Columbus Crew SC at Yankee Stadium.
Trailing 4-1 from the first leg, City won 2-0 on the night thanks to David Villa's penalty and a Jonathan Mensah own goal but, despite hitting the post on two occasions, Patrick Vieira's side couldn't find the tie-winner.
It was a heroic effort from the home side but they fell a goal shy and it's Columbus who advance to the Eastern Conference final where they'll meet Toronto FC.
Heartbreak in the BX but a whole lot of pride.
Following a long two month wait for a gameday at Yankee Stadium, 23,246 fans made the pilgrimage for this do or die second leg Conference semifinal.
With a three-goal deficit to make up after the heavy 4-1 defeat in Ohio, City knew the size of the task ahead of them before a ball was kicked, with Head Coach Patrick Vieira describing it as a "big, exciting challenge".
The Frenchman's charges exploded out of the blocks and began exerting pressure on the Columbus backline from the first kick, earning a first reward in the 15th minute when Rodney Wallace was taken down inside the area.
As he did on Decision Day vs. the same opponents, Villa assumed responsibilities for the spot-kick but this time he made no mistake, sending Zack Steffen the wrong way from 12 yards to get the Bronx jumping.
The deficit reduced to two, NYC continued to take control of proceedings against a Columbus side content to sit back and soak up pressure and wait for opportunities on the counter.
That was until the half hour mark when The Crew had their best spell of the half - a period which would have resulted in a road goal if not for an unbelievable save from Sean Johnson.
Back at the other end, Villa served up a great chance for Maxi Moralez to cut the Columbus lead to one but the Argentine struck the outside of the post with his shot.
1-0 on the night was how it stayed until the break, meaning Vieira's men needed at least two goals in the second half to progress and face Toronto FC in the Conference final.
On 53', NYCFC moved to within one as Struna's long-range strike was headed past his own goalkeeper by Jonathan Mensah, meaning the Boys in Blue would need just one more goal to advance (if they could keep Columbus out at the other end).
Even the most cynical home fan was now dreaming of the epic denouement and Moralez was a whisker away from providing the turnaround goal with his second header of the season but it just flashed past the post.
A minute later, Jack Harrison strode clear down the right flank and opted to take the shot on himself rather than square it, drawing a solid save from Steffen.
City went even closer on 70' when Wallace almost scored the goal his excellent display had warranted, taking down a aerial ball and flicking it over his marker's head delightfully before stabbing his volley towards goal.
It beat Steffen, but not the woodwork...
Sean Okoli was introduced with 10 minutes remaining as Vieira upped the ante but the visitors employed their best gamesmanship to try and disrupt NYC's flow.
All of the stoppages meant that five minutes were added on and Vieira introduced Andrea Pirlo and Jonathan Lewis to try and find the game-winner.
There was a scramble in the box in the dying seconds and a shout for a penalty but the referee was unmoved and Columbus held on by the skin of their teeth to progress.
Sadly, the moment which settled the tie will be remembered as Harrison Afful's goal in the first leg.
Ultimately, it was a strike which made the task just too large for Vieira's men, despite a heroic rally in the Bronx.
Man of the Match...
There were plenty of contenders for this particular accolade but the Finland international just takes it for a superhuman effort in the middle.
Ring seemed to cover every blade of grass on the night and we lost count of the number of recoveries and tackles he made in a typically combative performance.
Social Post of the Game...
Stats and Milestones...
- NYCFC's record vs. Columbus Crew SC now stands at 3-3-3
- This was the third meeting between NYCFC and Columbus in a row
- David Villa scored his second MLS Playoffs goal and second in as many games
- Villa has now scored eight goals in his last nine games vs. Columbus
How They Lined Up...
Vieira made two changes to his lineup from the first leg, bringing in defenders Andraz Struna and Ronald Matarrita for Ethan White and the suspended Alexander Callens.
Elsewhere, it was the same XI which started in Ohio, with David Villa spearheading the front three in between Rodney Wallace and Jack Harrison.
That's the 2017 season in the books - we'll be back in 2018 where we'll look to build upon our second place finish in the Supporters' Shield race. Thank you for your incredible support throughout 2017!