Columbus Crew SC came from behind on two separate occasions to earn a point at home, their sixth straight home draw, tying an MLS record.
“We have to start winning, but when I see an effort like tonight and when I see the performance like tonight it makes me believe, it makes me believe that we can do it,” Sporting Director and Head Coach of Crew SC Gregg Berhalter said after the match.
Berhalter also expressed surprise that Crew SC’s winless streak sits at ten MLS games, saying: “It feels much longer.”
The game began following a 48-minute delay and both sides would attack from the get-go, with most of possession taking place in either attacking third. NYCFC had two early chances snuffed out by Crew SC, the first coming from an RJ Allen cutback pass looking for David Villa, but Wil Trapp dove in to tackle it away and the second coming when Thomas McNamara got in behind but Nicolai Naess, making his first appearance for Columbus, slid in to clear that chance.
Columbus created a few chances of their own in the early going, mainly working through Ethan Finlay, who tried to send in crosses towards Ola Kamara. The best of these chances came in the 23rd minute when Finlay got in behind and tried to send a cutback pass towards Kamara, but it was deflected out, but not after hitting a New York defender on the hand. Berhalter and Finlay both referred the play as a possible handball call, but none was called.
In the 40th minute, NYCFC’s three Designated Players combined to give the Blues a lead going into the break. David Villa created the opportunity by drawing a foul just outside the box after an arid throw from Crew SC goalkeeper Steve Clark was intercepted. Clark then pushed the ensuing Andrea Pirlo free kick off the post, but Frank Lampard beat everyone to the rebound and knocked it into the back of the net to give NYCFC a 1-0 advantage.
Crew SC did not waste time in their search for an equalizer as Justin Meram headed home a cross from Waylon Francis to tie the game at 1-1 in the 49th. The goal was Meram’s third of the year and the cross gave Francis his third assist of 2016.
Columbus continued to threaten, and in the 79th minute, received their chance to take the lead. Finlay ran in behind the defense and fired off a shot which deflected off of Frederic Brillant, who slid in and was called for a penalty on the play. Finlay stepped up to the spot without debate and blasted the ball past Josh Saunders, who guessed correctly diving to his left, and Finlay’s third goal of the year gave the Black & Gold a 2-1 lead with ten to go.
“I knew I would finish it,” Finlay said on stepping up for the penalty.
Then, for the 13th time in the 2016 campaign, Columbus gave up a goal in the final 15 minutes when Andrea Pirlo flicked in a pass for David Villa who easily placed it past Clark on the one-on-one chance, leveling the match at 2-2 in the 85th.
Crew SC added a 14th goal surrendered in the last 15 minutes of matches as a NYCFC cross met the hand of Harrison Afful, drawing a penalty for the visitors, and Villa placed his penalty perfectly to the left of Clark in the second minute of stoppage time to give New York a 3-2 lead.
That wasn’t all however as Finlay earned his first brace of the year deep into stoppage time. Off a Hector Jimenez free kick, recently acquired Adam Jahn headed the ball down far post and after a Saunders save the ball fell to the feet of Finlay and he sent the ball off a NYCFC defender and into the top right corner to equalize and pull back a point for Crew SC in the 95th. The game would end with the 3-3 scoreline.
New York’s Thomas McNamara was “a little bit frustrated” with the result, but was pleased with his team’s resolve to come back from a second half deficit, while NYCFC Manager Patrick Viera simply said “it was a good game of football… a lot of drama.”
Despite surrendering their seventh second half lead of the season, Finlay noted the positive takeaways from his team’s performance.
“We went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the East and probably the best team of the summer so far… I think there are a lot of positives to take away from this and until we’re mathematically out of this we’re going to fight every second.”
Crew SC are not “mathematically out of it” and remain seven points out of playoff position even after tonight’s draw and last week’s bye. Columbus will take on the New England Revolution on August 20 at 7:30 in Gillette Stadium. NYCFC remains atop the standings in the East with 38 points and will take on the LA Galaxy on August 20 at 3:30 pm.