Columbus Crew SC finally got their season going with an entertaining 3-2 victory over New York City FC at MAPFRE Stadium.
Ethan Finlay also found form with an assist and the opening goal after struggling to recapture the performances of last season that had catapulted him into the national team. He opened the scoring on seven minutes after Justin Meram drove to the line and his pull back found the onrushing Finley to strike home.
The game was becoming a hectic affair with both teams showing defensive frailties and it was Columbus’s inability to deal with crosses that resulted in the equalizer. The ever dangerous David Villa was left alone by both Michael Parkhurst and Harrison Afful and he applied a pinpoint finish with a header back across Steve Clark.
Columbus were coming on the stronger in the half and should have extended their lead before halftime. Kei Kamara was lively throughout and on another night could have bagged a hat trick. His best chance of the half came from another Meram run exposing the high defensive line and his pull back found the free Kamara, who could only side foot wide. Finlay also had a chance to double his tally for the night when Higuain free kick found him in the box and the lifted shot beat Josh Saunders, but hit the far post and out to safety.
New York were playing with an unusual defensive formation with the system leading to most of Crew SC’s best attacking play. Ronald Matarrita would move into a midfield anchor role from the left back position whenever New York City had possession of the ball. This paired with their high defensive line was allowing Crew SC to break quickly into the space which was left with Afful being the main benefactor.
As the second half started NYCFC did not learn from their first half defensive performance, allowing Kamara to fire Columbus into the lead on 49 minutes. Matarrita was pushing forward in midfield and lost the ball high up the field. Meram then picked it up and found a free Kamara on the right to dispatch a shot into the bottom left of the goal.
Meram looked to have finished off the game with his first and Crew SC’s third of the night. Finlay, now brimming with confidence broke free down New York’s troubled left side and his pull back found Meram to apply a simple side-footed finish.
New York City FC and Villa were not finished and gave Columbus a nervous finish to the game with a goal from the penalty spot on 87 minutes. Tyson Wahl brought down Kwadwo Poku as he rushed into the area and referee Ted Unkel then mistakenly showed a red card to the stunned Michael Parkhurst.
Clark saved the victory for Columbus at the death with a fantastic save from Patrick Mullins whose stretched shot looked like it was heading in at the far post.