Zelarayán struck first in the 82nd minute, with a free kick blasted past Sean Johnson in the NYCFC net as Columbus drew level to prevent what would have become a three-match goalless streak. And the Argentinian midfielder delivered once more in stoppage time to seal a valuable second win of the season for the defending MLS Cup champs.
NYCFC looked the aggressors throughout the first 15 minutes against a struggling Crew, and finally did find the back of the net through a bottom-corner finish by Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to open his account in 2021 and make it a 1-0 contest. Not long after, Jesús Medina nearly made it 2-0 on a perfect pass in the box from Valentin Castellanos but was denied by a brilliant save from Eloy Room. Castellanos later made his own bid to double the margin in the 33rd from a pass from Tajouri-Shradi but missed the target by mere inches. Then, in the 38th, Andres Jasson fed Tajouri-Shradi with a perfect through pass, but Tajouri-Shradi couldn't convert to make it a brace for himself as he was unable to get a clean touch on it.
Columbus did find the net in the 51st minute as Jonathan Mensah fired it home but saw it immediately waved off on a quite straightforward offside call. Johnson, for his part, was barely troubled outside of deep tries from Pedro Santos in the 40th and Darlington Nagbe in the 66th that didn't miss by much.
But Zelarayán would once again prove the difference, scoring his second and third goals of the season, all from free-kicks.
- THE BIG PICTURE: It's the definition of three points dropped for NYC, who will rue their failure to put the game out of reach early on. They'll certainly look back on an enormous save by Room to rob Medina of his fifth goal of the campaign, as well as Castellanos' near-miss just past the half-hour mark. But the night belonged to the Crew, who didn't put a shot on target until around the 80th minute but rode the magic of Zelarayán to a potentially tone-setting victory.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Is there any doubt? It belongs to Zelarayán, who lasered home not one, but two free kicks to play the hero for a Crew side that were starved for goals.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Zelarayán's late-game magic stole the show, as he and the Crew look to build on an emotional win in New Jersey.