Columbus Crew SC secured a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and destroyed New York Red Bulls head coach Gerhard Struber’s debut by scoring three consecutive goals in a 3-2 victory on Saturday night at the MAPFRE Stadium in the first round of the 2020 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
The clubs came to a deadlock at 1-1, but the team opened 23 seconds in the second half to a 2-1 lead via Darlington Nagbe. Lucas Zelarayan first hit the post with a long shot, then the shot by Derrick Etienne Jr. cleared away and Nagbe followed in the 46th minute to clear everything up.
The momentum continued in the 68th minute when Gyasi Zardes fired a header back for the 3-1 lead. He joined a deep cross from Etienne Jr. at the back post and then delivered the eventual game winner.
The crew appeared to be cruising comfortably, but the Red Bulls made it 3-2 in the 90th minute via Brian White. The attacker took a low, driven cross from Jared Stroud from the right flank once, creating a hectic finish that saw Tom Barlow almost equalize in the 93rd minute.
To kick-start their three-goal run, Columbus first had to respond to an opening title from RBNY youngster Caden Clark. The midfielder cut a left-footed blow from close to the PK spot after a poor crew clearance, giving New York a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute.
Columbus reacted quickly in the 26th minute via a penalty kick from Pedro Santos to level the game level at 1-1. He stumbled into the 18-yard box by Dru Yearwood and narrowly defeated goalkeeper Ryan Meara with his left foot shot.
- 23 ‘RBNY Caden Clark | WATCH
- 26 ‘CLB Pedro Santos (PK) | WATCH
- 46 ‘CLB Darlington Nagbe | WATCH
- 68 ‘CLB Gyasi Zardes | WATCH
- 90 ‘RBNY Brian White | WATCH
- THE BIG IMAGE: After missing the playoffs in 2019, the crew vowed to return and challenge for the MLS Cup. The Caleb Porters team stays on that path and the big guns Darlington Nagbe, Lucas Zelarayan, Gyasi Zardes, etc. came out big. The Red Bulls made the game interesting at the end, but will have to wait another year for another chance at the MLS Cup. They’ve made it to the playoffs for 11 consecutive seasons, but each time fell short. Could Struber, who coached his first race, be able to weather the trend in 2021?
- MOMENT OF THE CONTEST: Gyasi Zardes probably thought his goal in the 68th minute only made the injury worse, but it ended up being the match winner. The header of the American men’s team attackers also worked the corners perfectly.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Darlington Nagbes’ goal generates some love, but so was his all-round play in midfield. The crew acquired him via swap from Atlanta United during the off-season, hoping he would produce products at great times like this.
- club: Sunday, November 29 vs. Nashville SC or Toronto FC (time to be determined) | Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals
- RBNY: End of the season
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