Late defensive collapse forces NYCFC to settle for draw

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JACK HAZZARD

NYCFC will return to New York with their heads hung low after giving up a disappointing last minute goal that resulted in a 3-3 draw against the Columbus Crew at MAPFRE Stadium.

David Villa and Ethan Finlay traded braces, with the latter finding the deciding goal in the final minute of extra time.

After a 48-minute long delay due to inclement weather, the two Eastern Conference clubs took to the field ready to play. Breaking out of the gates early were the Columbus Crew, who took complete control early on with high pressure and productive passing.

Offensive chances came and went for both clubs with little to no production at the end. The first major attacking opportunity was handed to NYCFC as left back R.J. Allen dribbled into the box, proceeding to lay off a weak pass to a wide open David Villa who couldn’t control the ball before Columbus’ Wil Trapp was able to clear it.

A penalty shout was given in the 23′ minute after what appeared to be an unintentional handball by NYCFC defender Frederic Brillant. Nevertheless, the referee declared the shout to be unfit and instructed the players to play on.

As the first half progressed, Columbus took complete control of the match, putting NYCFC in a difficult spot. However, the New York defense seemed unthreatened by Columbus’ advances. It wasn’t until the 39′ minute when New York was handed a free kick above the box for the match to turn in NYCFC’s favor.

New York’s Andrea Pirlo stepped up to take the free kick, forcing Steve Clark to make an amazing one-hand save that deflected off the top iron. Upon hitting the cross bar, the ball fell perfectly to a wide open Frank Lampard, who fired it into an open net, handing NYCFC a 1-0 lead going into the half.

Much like the first, the Columbus Crew began the second half with vicious energy and desire, only taking four minutes to level the score at one. A cross from Columbus defender Waylon Francis found an open Justin Meram who placed a simple header past Saunders.

The match continued for another 20 minutes until it saw another goal. In the 79′ minute, Crew midfielder Ethan Finlay was brought down in the box, resulting in the referee to blow the whistle. Finlay then proceeded to step up to the spot and finish past Saunders, who dived the right way but couldn’t get a finger on it.

Following Columbus’ goal, Patrick Vieira subbed off right back Jason Hernandez for Steven Mendoza, reshaping NYCFC to three in the back. That move proved to be beneficial. In the 84′ minute, David Villa received a beautiful chip over the defense from Pirlo, setting up an easy finish for New York’s captain.

NYCFC continued to apply pressure into extra time. In the 93′ minute, a wide cross by Mendoza struck the hand of Columbus’ defender Afful, which resulted in a penalty for New York. David Villa stepped up to the spot and converted the chance, handing NYCFC a late 3-2 lead.

The match seemed to be all but done — until the Crew found late life. Columbus earned a free kick past the halfway mark in New York territory, giving the Ohio-based club a last second chance. The ball was dumped into New York’s box, causing a scramble amongst players, eventually falling to Ethan Finlay who somehow found a way through a maze of defenders to tie the match at three.

Although the match was thrilling, New York will feel hard done after failing to hang on to a lead twice. NYCFC’s next match is at home on August 20th against the LA Galaxy.