NYCFC’s Youngsters Spark Come-From-Behind Win

Apr 29, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; New York City FC midfielder Jack Harrison (11) is saluted by teammates after scoring the first goal of the game against Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

By CHRISTIAN ARAOS

imagesWith two veterans taking the night off, the youngsters took over for New York City FC.

David Villa was left off the game day squad because of illness and Andrea Pirlo was an unused sub, but NYCFC came from behind to defeat Columbus Crew, 3–2 with two goals from Jack Harrison, 20, and a goal from Yangel Herrera, 19, in his first start.

City (4-3-1, 13 points) took the lead eight minutes into the game with Harrison’s first-time chip. Maxi Moralez was allowed to dribble to the edge of the Columbus area and slipped the diagonal for Harrison to run onto and finish for his third goal of the season. With Pirlo on the bench, Moralez seized the opportunity to be the orchestrator in the midfield and floated between the lines to pick up the ball, recycle possession and initiate the attack from midfield.

Despite Moralez’s efforts, NYCFC was unable to gain control of the game and Columbus (4-4-1, 13) enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession and opportunities for the subsequent 20 minutes. The Crew would turn that into the equalizer through their primary means of attack. A diagonal ball to an overlapping fullback led to a cross. This time it was Jukka Rattala with the cross from the left and Federico Higuaín had the finish on the volley.

NYCFC found its footing afterward and pushed play into the Columbus end finishing the half on the front foot, but their defense gifted Crew SC the lead early in the second half. This time, it was Alex Callens who was the defender to make a costly giveaway deep in his own end. Callens miscued a pass allowing Ethan Finlay to gain possession and square the ball. Higuaín let the ball through his legs so it could find Ola Kamara alone for the easy finish.

Just under half of City’s passes were completed in the Columbus end of the field during the game. Much of that came after Kamara’s goal as City was able to patiently search for the equalizer with crosses coming from the right and then the left wing. Left back Ben Sweat, making his first start of the season, improved during the game after being cautioned in the second minute. Sweat assisted on the goal that tied the game against the team that drafted him.

“It was a back and forth game,” Sweat said. “They were keeping the ball, we were keeping the ball, we had good chances up the field. I had a chance to serve, we had a few guys on the blocks, and I cut it back with my weak foot, which I don’t do too often, and Yangel was there and had a great finish.”

Herrera almost knocked himself out of the game on the goal. He clashed heads with Rattala that resulted in both needing treatment for several minutes. Fortunately for the Pigeons, Herrera was able to return to the game and seize it. He became more aggressive at closing down Columbus’ midfielders and in joining the attack, all while completing a significant majority of his passes. Columbus Coach Gregg Berhalter said his team knew Herrera would be a tough player for his team to face.

“He’s a powerful player and an excellent player,” Berhalter said. “Moralez is another that seemed to shine with the absence of those players. The last thing you want to do is let your guard down and say because they’re missing two designated players that it’s going to be an easy game because this is a good team.”

Herrera did all three to set up Harrison’s winning goal. He forced the turnover in front of the Columbus area and cutback for Harrison who got a toe on it to slot the ball into the back of the net. It was the first time Harrison scored more than one goal in a game and he already matched his rookie year goal total with four on the season. Harrison was a threat with his dribbling and found pockets of space that allowed him to play diagonal switches from right to left wing.

“I think Jack grew up as a player,” City Coach Patrick Vieira said. “He’s getting better every day, every week because of the way he is training. He’s working hard with Villa every day. Of course that’s a great result, he wants to play every week and he’s working really hard in training. When he has the opportunity, he shows me how good he is.”

Harrison and Rodney Wallace had difficulties dealing with Columbus’ fullbacks Rattala and Harrison Afful during the first half but kept them to one key pass combined in the second. Berhalter said he was displeased with how his team fell off after Kamara’s goal which was the last shot on target they had for the game.