David Villa scored NYCFC’s first playoff goal, but it was too little and too late. (Joe Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After two superb regular seasons, New York City FC keeps finding itself getting embarrassed in the playoffs.

Ten-man City its postseason woes Tuesday night, dropping a 4-1 loss to Columbus Crew SC in the MLS Eastern Conference semifinal first leg at MAPFRE Stadium.

Ola Kamara, Artur, Justin Meram and Harrison Afful tallied goals for Columbus, which takes a three-goal into Sunday’s game at Yankee Stadium.

In three playoff games over two years, NYCFC has been outscored, 11-1.

NYCFC dropped last year’s conference final to Toronto FC, 7-0, getting drubbed 5-0 in the first leg and blanked at home, 2-0.

“In the last seven or eight games, where we were struggling to win games a little bit,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said.  “The contents of the games were there, we just couldn’t score goals. When you look at the number of chances that we created in the first half, and we didn’t take our chances. Going one-nil down and we needed to score at least one or two goals in the first half. And they took their chances and we didn’t. And when you’ve created so many chances and you only score once, it’s not good enough.”

Kamara gave the hosts a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute as slotted home a rebound of a Federico Higuaín shot.

The game dramatically turned in the 52nd minute when center back Alex Callens, who had played every minute during the regular season, was red-carded for elbowing Meram. The man who made the decision was the fourth official Ismail, who replaced an ill Alan Kelly at halftime. Ismail had to go to the Video Assistant Referee to determine that the Colombian defender had to be sent off.

“It wasn’t easy for us,” Vieira said. “I think they really put us under pressure straight away after the red card and they managed to score these two goals and we didn’t keep our calm. But I think when you have one man down, the team, the players have to do a little bit more and we didn’t do it. So when you go one man down and people don’t do extra, you will suffer. And we did.”


It went from bad to worse for the visitors as Columbus struck twice within an 11-minute span.

First, Artur, assisted by Higuain, doubled the lead in the 58th minute before Meram drilled a shot that went off a stunned Johnson’s hand for a three-goal margin in the 69th minute.

David Villa pulled one back for City in the 76th minute, NYCFC’s first playoff goal ever, after 258 scoreless minutes.

Afful, who had not scored a goal during the regular season, tallied a spectacular goal to put a bow on a memorable performance for the home side and another embarrassing playoff result for the visitors.

“I think it’s a big goal for them,” Johnson said. “Obviously, it gives them a little more separation going to the next playoff game. At that point we were pressing extremely hard to get back in the game by getting a second goal so I can’t fault the boys for pushing and unfortunately we gave away the fourth goal. It’s a three goal difference but we got the away goal so we have to make sure to regroup, get back to it.”

City had its moments in the first half, but could not cash in against a rather shaky Columbus backline.

In fact, Villa had two excellent scoring opportunities within a minute.

On his first attempt, the Spanish international split defenders Josh Williams and Jonathan Mensah on the right side before firing just wide left from eight yards in the 36th minute.

A minute later, Villa led a 2-on-1 break with Rodney Wallace as he drilled 15-yard shot off the right post.

Scoring Summary: 

6’ – CLB: Ola Kamara

58’ – CLB: Artur (Assisted By: Federico Higuaín)

69’ – CLB: Justin Meram (Assisted By: Ola Kamara, Federico Higuaín)

78’ – NYC: David Villa

90’+3’ – CLB: Harrison Afful (Assisted By: Justin Meram)

Disciplinary Summary:

52’ – NYC: Alexander Callens (Red Card)

64’ – NYC: Ronald Matarrita (Yellow Card)


New York City FC: Sean Johnson; Ethan White (74’ Andraz Struna),Alexander Callens, Frederic Brillant, Ben Sweat,Alexander Ring, Yangel Herrera, Maximiliano Morález; Jack Harrison (79’ Sean Okoli), Rodney Wallace (56’ Ronald Matarrita), David Villa

Substitutions Not Used: Eirik Johansen, Mikey Lopez, Thomas McNamara, Jonathan Lewis

Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Héctor Jiménez, Josh Williams, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful; Wil Trapp, Artur (90’+1’ Mohammed Abu), Pedro Santos (75’ Kekuta Manneh), Federico Higuaín (88’ Lalas Abubakar), Justin Meram; Ola Kamara

Substitutions Not Used: Brad Stuver, Waylon Francis, Adam Jahn, Niko Hansen