Crew take control of conference semi series on wild night in Columbus

New York City FC’s Alexander Ring, left, and Columbus Crew’s Artur chase a loose ball during the first half of an MLS Eastern Conference semifinal soccer match Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

COLUMBUS — The story of the year in Major League Soccer will not be dying down anytime soon.

The Columbus Crew, in their first home game since the club’s relocation controversy exploded two weeks ago to the day, beat New York City FC 4-1 in leg one of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Crew fans, who have led a grassroots effort to cling to their team, were in dreamland 75 minutes in, up 3-0 and up a man. David Villa stole a 78th-minute goal to seemingly give NYCFC hope heading into leg two back in New York.

But just when it appeared the visitors had held out – when it appeared a 2-0 victory at home would be enough – Harrison Afful wove his way into the NYCFC box and nabbed a brilliant fourth for Columbus.


In a conference semifinal round of mostly cagey first legs, the 90 minutes in Columbus were as eventful as the 270 minutes elsewhere combined.

Columbus was sloppy in the opening five minutes, then jumped on NYCFC in the sixth minute. Ola Kamara pounced on a rebound to put the Crew up 1-0:


Justin Meram had a golden chance to double Columbus’ lead later in the half. Kamara had one minutes later. Meanwhile, NYCFC very easily could have had an equalizer. Villa missed a difficult chance, then a clear-cut one. The Spaniard cut through the Crew defense, and had Zack Steffen scrambling, but smacked his shot against the near post.

Rodney Wallace also had a late first half opportunity for NYCFC that he squandered. The visitors would eventually concede four goals, but manager Patrick Vieira seemed more concerned with the missed chances than any problems at the back.

The game changed for good shortly after the break when NYCFC’s Alexander Callens was shown a red card after lengthy video review. Columbus took control, and got its second goal six minutes after the sending off. Artur finished off a counter as the visitors were again far too open at the back:


Meram grabbed the third, again on the counter, and Columbus was cruising.

Villa got the away goal that temporarily silenced the Nordecke, the passionate supporters’ corner at Mapfre Stadium.


But the late fourth goal gave Crew fans reason to cheer wildly at the final whistle. They applauded the players, who reciprocated. And then before they descended into the chilly Columbus night, they had one more chant that summed up the evening:

“We’re not done yet,” clap, clap, clap clap clap. “We’re not done yet.”

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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.