Set Pieces Sink Red Bulls in Columbus

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Red Bulls logoThe New York Red Bulls saw their winless slump in all competitions extended to seven games Saturday night, allowing two goals on set pieces and another on a counter to Justin Meram and falling to the Columbus Crew, 3-2.

The defeat was the Red Bulls second straight and came after a 2-1 loss to Kansas City on Wednesday in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final. The consecutive losses follow four straight draws, and a loss to the Portland Timbers.

New York has not won since beating FC Cincinnati in extra time in the Open Cup semifinals on Aug. 15.

Meram’s goal in the 54th broke a 1-1 tie and Josh Williams headed in a Federico Higuain corner in the 67th for his first goal in four and a half years. Gonzalo Verón won a penalty and converted it the 72nd, but the Red Bulls (12-11-6, 42 points) failed to seriously test Crew keeper Zach Steffen the rest of the way.

The result left New York in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of Montreal which was to play at Atlanta on Sunday. Columbus (14-12-5, 47) climbed into fourth place, one ahead of Atlanta.

The Red Bulls had two chances in the first three minutes but it was Columbus that took the lead in the sixth minute.

Higuain curled a free kick from in front of the Red Bulls bench into the penalty area where Jonathan Mensah broke free of his marker and outleapt Sacha Kljestan to head past Luis Robles.

New York, however, responded within eight minutes. Sean Davis won a ball in the right corner, coming from behind Mohammed Abu to tackle the ball away. He quickly found Bradley Wright-Phillips inside the area and the Englishman quickly pivoted to his left before hitting a low right-footed shot that skipped in off the left post.

Abu immediately called for a foul, but his pleas were dismissed by Referee Fotis Bakakos.

The Red Bulls started the second half the same way as the first. Aaron Long put a header wide 46 seconds in and then saw Columbus go ahead when Higuain in midfield sprung Meram wide down the left side. The American-born Iraqi international cut inside and shot between Fidel Escobar and Felipe Martins to hit the far-side netting past a diving Robles.

Williams doubled the lead with his header, but Verón gave the Red Bulls life. He challenged Mensah by darting to the byline and then cutting back. As Mensah slide, his left arm yanked down Verón.

Bazakos initially called a goal kick, but then was alerted to check the video replay. He returned to point to the penalty spot, where Verón drove it down the middle.

Including the Open Cup final, the match was New York’s third in seven days and third of five in 13 days. Wright-Phillips was issued a yellow card for a midfield foul on Wil Trapp in the 73rd, and is suspended for Wednesday’s home match against D.C. United.