Josh Williams and Rodney Wallace exchange words in the second half. (Noah K. Murray/USA Sports Photo)
By Michael Lewis
BRONX, N.Y. — There was plenty of effort, but not enough goals for New York City FC.
City’s attempt to overcome a three-goal deficit fell short against Columbus Crew SC Sunday night, as it crashed out of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals for the second consecutive season.
Let’s face it, NYCFC paid dearly for its distressing 4-1 defeat in Columbus Tuesday. It pushed the visitors to the limit at Yankee Stadium, but fell short in a 2-0 victory.
Translated: Columbus advanced to the conference final with a 4-3 aggregate-goals win as City, which finished in second place in the East for the second successive season, went home early. Columbus will meet Toronto FC in the conference final.
“Of course I am disappointed that we are not going to the East finals,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said. “I felt like there was a space there to score the third goal, and I’m upset, frustrated, and disappointed.”
Yet, Vieira was not disappointed at his team’s effort before a crowd of 23,246.
“It was difficult for me to ask more from the team or the players because they gave everything they had,” he said. “I’m really proud of the way they played and the way they fought.”
Vieira wasn’t the only one who praised the hosts’ effort.
“It was one of our best performances of the season,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “We were unlucky not to score the third. We all believed it was possible, I think you got that sense from the start of the game that we all came out of the gates blazing and it is really disappointing to come on the short end of it.”
There was no dissent from defensive midfielder Alex Ring.
“With the game we played today, we would have deserved the result we needed,” he said. “The chances were there. I think Columbus knows it themselves they are very lucky today. We messed up in the first leg.
“It’s a tough one to chew on.”
The game started promising for the hosts as former NYCFC defender Josh Williams tripped Rodney Wallace in the penalty area. David Villa converted the ensuing penalty kick, his second goal of the playoffs, in the 16th minute.
Right back Andraz Struna, making his fifth start for City, fired a shot from outside the box that defender Jonathan Mensah headed into his own net past goalkeeper Zach Steffen, who was dove the other way as he anticipated the original shot.
The final 20 minutes turned out to be a series of near misses for the hosts.
Maxi Moralez headed a close-range shot wide left in the 66th minute. Jack Harrison raced down the right wing and was denied by Steffen in the 67th minute. And Wallace slammed an eight-yard shot off the left post in the 70th minute.
So close, yet so far.
16’ – NYC: David Villa (PK)
53’ – NYC: Andraz Struna (Assisted By: Rodney Wallace)
63’ – CLB: Mohammed Abu
74’ – NYC: Rodney Wallace
New York City FC: Sean Johnson; Andraz Struna (82’ Sean Okoli), Frederic Brillant, Ben Sweat,Ronald Matarrita (90’ Andrea Pirlo); Jack Harrison, Yangel Herrera, Alexander Ring, Rodney Wallace (90’ + 2’ Jonathan Lewis); Maximiliano Morález, David Villa (C)
Substitutions Not Used: Eirik Johansen, Ethan White, Thomas McNamara, Kwame Awuah
Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Héctor Jiménez, Josh Williams, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful; Mohammed Abu, Wil Trapp, Pedro Santos (88’ Adam Jahn), Federico Higuaín, Justin Meram (69’ Kekuta Manneh); Ola Kamara (76’ Lalas Abubakar)
Substitutions Not Used: Brad Stuver, Jukka Raitala, Waylon Francis, Artur