COLUMBUS, Ohio |Kwadwo Poku scored his first-career Major League Soccer brace as New York City FC and Columbus Crew SC played to a 2-2 draw in front of 15,514 at MAPFRE Stadium on a rainy Wednesday night.
New York City FC improve to 7-11-7 (28 points) and are now level with Orlando City SC and Montreal Impact on points in the Eastern Conference, while the Crew are 9-8-8 (35 points) as the race to qualify for the MLS playoffs continues to intensify.
"I think that we need to feel good about the fact that we got one point in a very difficult place to play against what I think is a very good team," head coach Jason Kreis said. "To come back from being down a goal in the first half again shows our guys that we can do it, that we can play. I think there was a lot of really good soccer out there tonight, so I feel good about it and hopefully the players do as well.”
Added goalkeeper Josh Saunders: "Yeah obviously it’s huge for us because that puts us pretty much right on the line of the team above us. Anytime you can come from behind on the road and get a point out of it is great. Obviously we had a chance to win the game, but we’ll take the result. Moving into another road game, a four-point road trip would be amazing. So we look to go after L.A. when we get there, but tonight we’ll take the result."
The score was tied at 2-all when referee Allen Chapman signaled for a halt in play in the 77th minute due to lightning in the area. The clock remained at 76:15 for 75 minutes before play resumed.
The Crew took a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute on a goal by Kei Kamara, who extended his league-leading tally to 18 goals on the season. Ethan Finlay drove down the right side and crossed the ball to the middle as Kamara tapped it home.
The score remained 1-0 at halftime.
New York City FC equalized in the 57th on a lovely give-and-go between Poku and David Villa. Despite having Tyson Wahl draped on his back, Poku received the ball and flicked it to Villa on his left. The New York City FC captain dribbled and fed an enticing through ball into the 18-yard box as Poku continued his run. The Ghanaian midfielder clipped the ball with the outside of his right foot into the far post to knot the match at 1-1.
It was Villa's seventh assist of the season, tying him for the Club lead along with Poku.
Poku put the Club ahead in the 66th minute. Andrea Pirlo whipped in a corner kick to the far post that Andrew Jacobson headed back into a dangerous area as Poku one-timed his side-footed effort into the back of the net.
It is Poku’s first-career MLS brace and second this season; he scored two goals in the U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round match against the Cosmos on June 17.
"That’s why I am in there -- to create and score some goals, so it has been good," Poku said. "Just working with these players around me has given me confidence. I have the ability and I can do it, so I should keep going.”
Columbus responded six minutes later as substitute Cedrick Mabwati capped a give-and-go with Kamara with a neat finish to make the score 2-2.
New York City FC continue their road trip with a match at the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Galaxy (12-7-7; 43 points) on Sunday. Kickoff is 3 p.m. ET from the StubHub Center (ESPN, 970 AM, WQBU).