Gyasi Zardes celebrates his goal. (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)
ORLANDO – The Red Bulls bungled an opportunity to clinch a spot in the knockout round as they went down to a 2-0 defeat to Columbus Crew SC at the MLS Is Back Tournament Thursday night.
Crew SC (2-0-0, 6 points) took sole possession of first place and clinched a spot in the Round of 16 while the Red Bulls (1-1-0, 3) need a win and perhaps a draw in their next game to move on.
In the regular MLS standings, Columbus (3-0-1, 10) jumped into first place in the Eastern Conference while the Red Bulls (2-1-1-, 7) suffered their first setback.
The Red Bulls had 11 extra minutes to find the net – they didn’t place a shot on target – thanks to as many minutes of stoppage time at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports.
They were never really in the match.
Both Columbus’ goals came off of throw-ins.
Chris Cadden started the opening sequence in the 22nd minute as he found Pedro Santos, who brought the ball down field. Santos found an open Gyasi Zardes about 14 yards out in the box and the U.S. international ripped a shot past goalkeeper David Jensen.
Former Red Bulls midfielder Derrick Etienne botched a superb opportunity to double the lead on the half hour when he could not place a Zardes feed on target with an open net on the left near side.
Two minutes into the second half, Etienne made up for his miss as he took another thrown-in, motored down the left side before finding Lucas Zelarayán in the area. Zelarayán beat Jensen for a 2-0 lead.
The Red Bulls showed very little in the match.
Halftime statistics told much of the story about the sluggish Red Bulls, who had only 38 percent possession while being out shot by a 9-3 margin. New York did not place a shot on target in the opening half.
Zardes came close to his second goal in the 74th minute, when defender Amro Tarek nudged the ball away from the onrushing Columbus forward.
Two minutes later, Crew SC came close again as Youness Mokhtar blasted his 17-yard shot off the crossbar.