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RECAP: Three Unanswered Goals Ends New York Red Bulls Season, lose to Columbus Crew 3-2

The Columbus Crew SC and the New York Red Bulls have a deep and rich post-season history. The two Eastern Conference and "Original Ten" foes have met eleven times in the postseason, even meeting in the 2008 MLS Cup in Carson California, where the Crew would win their first and only championship, defeating the Red Bulls, 3-1

Amid the lurid backdrop of a COVID-19 pandemic forcing many supporters to watch the match at the comfort and safety of their homes, it would be Gerhard Struber's very first match in charge of the team that was looking to move on to the Eastern Conference semifinal. 

The Crew's free-flowing attacking style would be the catalyst to control the match but it was negated by the Red Bulls' high-press, which began to make things uncomfortable for the Crew playing out from the back. The tactic nearly worked to perfection early on, before Columbus began to take control of the match, applying offensive pressure to the New York defense, forcing the Red Bulls to concede corner kicks, and relying on goalkeeper Ryan Meara to make timely saves to keep the match scoreless. 

But the Red Bulls were able to breakthrough in the 23rd minute, courtesy of Caden Clark, who has been a wunderkind since he was signed and then inserted in the starting XI back in October against Atlanta United. Taking advantage of a poor clearance by Harrison Afful where the ball bounced right in front of him, and he did not miss. His goal was his third of the season and his first in the playoffs for the rookie sensation.

However, the lead would not last. As it has been the case nearly all season long, teams would catch the Red Bulls being vulnerable after scoring a goal. And it happened just three minutes later, off a counter-attack, Columbus midfielder Pedro Santos drew a foul in the box by Drew Yearwood, and a penalty was immediately given. Santos would then convert the penalty-kick to put the Crew level at one.

Chaos, Calamity, Then Collapse in the Second Half

Whatever suggestions were mentioned about the Crew's ability to storm back into matches in the locker room during halftime probably wasn't heeded. For it would be the Crew to go ahead right after kickoff in a chaotic fashion. With the Crew sending six attackers in the box, former Red Bulls midfielder Derrick Etienne Jr. initial shot was saved by Meara, but the rebound would find the feet of Darlington Nagbe, who rifled the ball in the back of the net for his second of the season to put the home side ahead, 2-1.

The lead was then doubled in the 68th minute when Derrick Etienne served a beautiful ball over to Gyasi Zardes, who headed it over the head of goalkeeper Ryan Meara, who helplessly watched the ball go into the net for his 13th of the season, seemingly putting the match out of reach, 3-1.

The Red Bulls would pull one back thanks to Brian White's goal in the 90th minute to give the visitors a glimmer of hope of bringing the match level, possibly extending into extra time. But the Crew would cement the win by using their defense to deny the Red Bulls any chance for a comeback and move on into the Eastern Conference semifinals and for the Red Bulls a very familiar ending to a roller-coaster season heading into 2021.

Final Thoughts

Well, let's be totally honest here. This was going to be a tall order to beat an in-form Columbus Crew team at home. A place where they have yet to win one at Mapfre Stadium losing all four games as a result. Add a head coach Gerhard Struber who just arrived after his visa was cleared to take over in a "win or go home" match, not nearly enough time to work with the team probably sealed their fate.

But the focus was not this season for the New York Red Bulls and their beleaguered supporters, it's for 2021 as changes will certainly be made if they have any aspirations to go further in the playoffs to secure their first-ever MLS Cup championship. 

Once again, for a season that didn't have any expectations at the start, it did have an expected and disturbingly familiar conclusion at the end.


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