COLUMBUS, Ohio – For the second straight season, New York City FC finished second in the Eastern Conference, and for the second straight season, the club was annihilated in their Audi MLS Cup Playoff opener.
The visitors sputtered into MAPFRE Stadium with a 1-4-2 record to close out the regular season, while Columbus Crew SC was unbeaten in 11 and coming off an emotional win in penalty kicks over Atlanta United.
And from the very beginning of the match, New York City seemed overwhelmed by an aggressive Columbus team that scored in the 6th minute, putting themselves in a lead they would not relinquish in a 4-1 win for Crew SC.
But the match could have had far more than one goal in the first half, when both teams had a plethora of squandered chances on goal. After the match, head coach Patrick Vieira said those missed chances decided the match.
“They took their chances; we didn’t take them,” he said. “When you create so many chances and you only score once, it’s not good enough.”
David Villa, Jack Harrison and Rodney Wallace all had their chances early on, and Harrison admitted the attacking trio wasn’t clinical enough.
“It would have been a different game if I had put one away early and if David hadn’t hit one off the post,” he said. “If we score those, it’s a completely different game.”
That lack of finishing, Vieira said, has been the club’s major problem this fall. His team has scored two goals just once in their last 10 games, an issue he readily identified.
“In the last seven, eight games when we’ve been struggling to win games a little bit, the chances were there,” he said. “We just couldn’t score goals.
Now, the club faces an uphill battle. Unless they can win by four goals, they’ll need a 3-0 win at home to advance to the Eastern Conference Championship. Vieira said “we’re going to try” to come up with a gameplan to win, but said he’s seen his team create enough chances to put up goals against Columbus.
“Every time we play them, we have the opportunity to score goals – not just one, but a few goals,” he said. “What will be important for us is to take our chances. We have to improve.”
And for Sean Johnson, that confidence means the series isn’t over just yet.
“No hill is big enough that we can’t climb it,” he said. “We’ve got the guys; we’ve got a talented group and a mentally strong group. So I think we’ll get back to it and we’ll come out guns blazing.”