NYCFC Goals: Villa 78mins
Columbus Goals: Kamara 6mins, Artur 57mins, Meram 69mins, Afful 90+2mins
A Quick Look...
New York City FC require a huge performance in the Bronx on Sunday after going down 4-1 to Columbus Crew SC in the Eastern Conference semifinals first leg.
In a first half containing more tricks than treats for Patrick Vieira's men on Halloween night, Ola Kamara opened the scoring for the hosts after six minutes.
Alexander Callens was red carded early in the second half before goals from Artur and Justin Meram looked to have knocked the Boys in Blue out.
David Villa replied with NYCFC's first-ever postseason goal on 78' to provide hope but Harrison Afful added a punctuation point in stoppage-time, meaning the Boys in Blue have a tall task ahead of them this weekend.
New York City FC's second MLS playoffs campaign kicked off at the MAPFRE Stadium in Ohio on a bitterly cold Halloween night.
Bidding to consign memories of the heavy Eastern Conference semifinals defeat in 2016 to the history books, Vieira's men enjoyed a bright start to the game and could have taken the lead on 4' when Yangel Herrera found himself free on the right side of the penalty box but Zack Steffen came up with a crucial save.
Two minutes later, the hosts took the lead courtesy of Ola Kamara who reacted first after Sean Johnson made a brilliant save to deny Federico Higuain, sending the campaigning home fans into raptures.
From NYC's point of view, it was a disappointing goal to concede so early in the game after they lost possession inside their own half but, with 84 minutes remaining to find a response, time was certainly on their side.
Johnson was the busier of the two goalkeepers over the next 30 minutes of the first half and was required to turn away a dangerous cross from the right and a long-range strike from Higuain and Justin Meram blazed over the rebound, before NYCFC's best two chances of the half fell to David Villa inside a minute.
First, the skipper was played through on 36', courtesy of a sublime through ball but just turned his effort wide before, a minute later, El Guaje struck the foot of the post when he broke the defensive line with a blistering turn of pace.
In an increasingly end-to-end game, Kamara should really have doubled his tally and Columbus's advantage on 40' when he was one-on-one with Johnson and lifted his shot over the frame before it was the road team's turn to be wasteful, as Rodney Wallace slid his shot wide after he was found by Villa ten yards from goal.
This seemingly-contagious profligacy from both teams meant that, somehow, there was just a single goal on the scoreboard at the half, with Columbus taking a narrow lead back into the locker room with them.
Hopes of a second stirring fightback in Columbus in 2017 were dealt a crushing blow on 52' when Callens was shown a straight red card for an elbow on Meram, following Video Review.
Six minutes later, The Crew made it 2-0 through Artur who shimmied in the box and swept it past Johnson and it got even worse for City on 69' when Meram made it 3-0.
Villa replied on 78' to provide some hope but Afful's stoppage-time strike to make it 4-1 means we now have a tall task ahead of us...
The red card issued to Callens via Video Review unquestionably turned the game.
Previously, it had been an end-to-end encounter with chances for both sides but Columbus were able to take control courtesy of their man advantage.
Man of the Match...
The Frenchman never gave up and made some heroic interceptions on what was a punishing night for NYCFC until the final 10.
Continuing his excellent 2017 form, Brillant kept battling without his central defensive partner in the second half and was blameless on the concessions.
Social Post of the Game...
Stats and Milestones...
- NYCFC's record vs. Columbus Crew SC now stands at 2-3-3
- Callens' red card ended his 100% involvement for NYCFC in 2017
- Villa scored NYCFC's first-ever postseason goal
- It was Villa's 23rd goal of 2017
- NYCFC needs to win at least 3-0 on Sunday to progress to the Conference Final
How They Lined Up...
Vieira named an unchanged lineup to the one which drew 2-2 with the same opposition on Decision Day at Citi Field.
That meant City played in their usual 4-3-3 formation, with Harrison and Wallace flanking Villa ahead of Herrera, Ring and Moralez.
NYCFC returns to New York for the second leg on Sunday November 5 at 5pm ET. Buy your tickets by clicking the link below...