WILLETS POINT, NY – New York City FC retained their second-place standing on Decision Day thanks to helpful results in Atlanta and Houston. There is still plenty to be worried about going into the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, which will begin October 30th.
New York City played a familiar match Sunday evening. They outshot Columbus 21 to 12, but came away with only a 2-2 draw. Things got precarious almost right away, as an unfortunate slip on the infield sod opened up a fast counter for Ola Kamara to put the Crew up in the 11th minute.
David Villa would not allow the feeling of impending dread overtake him or his team. Seven minutes later, Maxi Moralez would lace an out-swinging corner right to the head of Villa, who placed it perfectly to the right of Zack Steffen to knot it up at one each.
Just before the half, el Guaje would put the Pigeons ahead – this time with a rifled shot low to the near post that Steffen simply couldn’t catch up to. The ball ricocheted off his glove and rolled into the net to put City up 2-1 at the break.
Thankfully Patrick Vieira didn’t come out of the tunnel with parking the bus in mind. City continued to play aggressively, winning the midfield battle for essentially the entire match. In the 54th minute, an unfortunate mistake from Sean Johnson allowed Columbus to equalize. Johnson came off his line to clear a corner kick, but former NYCFC defender Josh Williams just barely beat Johnson to the ball and in it went.
Vieira could have made worse subs. The only real head-scratcher was the replacement of Jack Harrison with Khiry Shelton. That one could be excused with the amount of corners coming about in this match, and the relative lack of size on the part of NYCFC’s attacking front. Remaining subs included Ronald Matarrita for fellow countryman Rodney Wallace, and Jonathan Lewis for Yangel Herrera – pushing for a win.
Lewis in particular made things exciting with every touch he had. It makes you wonder if he’ll be moving up the depth chart come 2018.
In stoppage time, NYCFC got to see Video Assistant Referee utilized for the first time, and rightly so. Matarrita was making a run into the box, and Steffen just got to the play late, pulling Mata down in the process. Originally Ismail Elfath wasn’t going to award the penalty kick, but after some consideration signaled for VAR and ultimately made the right decision. With an opportunity to put his team automatically through to the semis, Villa lined up over the ball and made a good kick, but Steffen predicted it well and got the save.
With eyes to the scoreboard, things looked bleak for the Boys in Blue. Chicago had been behind Houston since early in the 1st half, but Atlanta and Toronto were trading back and forth, with Atlanta ahead for much of the second half. It looked as if NYCFC would be losing their grasp on the first-round bye, and have to play the Red Bulls in a knockout round match midweek.
Thankfully, Sebastian Giovinco tied things up in Atlanta and ensured City’s bye week.
While NYCFC have skid into the playoffs, they’ve at least been able to maintain their position. The help, however, ends here.
As Angels in the Outfield taught us, Championships have to be all on their own.