New York City FC gave up a 1-0 lead when free kicks dismantled the team late in the second half, causing the Pigeons to lose 2-1.
The past week has been a hectic one for New York City FC. Of course, it started with the game last week against Toronto FC, where poor refereeing led to a 1-1 draw against the Canadian side. Poor goalkeeping, and Jesús Medina legally jumping, led to a goal that was called off. The Professional Referee Organization admitted this week that the goal should have been given, but unfortunately it is a little too late, and NYCFC were robbed of three points.
Then, on a more positive note, the Pigeons announced the signing of Talles Magno as a Young Designated Player. The latest Brazilian is a highly touted prospect, and should be an impactful player in the attacking third.
So, on Saturday night, the team went into the game against the Columbus Crew with a lot of drive. Columbus is struggling so far this season, and NYCFC had a shot to take them down in their first meeting. Plus, the team wanted to win their first “home” game of the year at Red Bull Arena, for the team has to play multiple games in New Jersey this year.
Unfortunately, misfortune plagued the Bronx side, and the team lost 2-1 to the reining MLS Cup Champions. Regardless of scoring the first goal in the 18th minute, NYCFC could not hang on and were dismantled by one thing: free kicks.
At first, Columbus struggled to register a shot on goal until the 80th minute. Arguably, both sides played well up until that point; NYCFC was just a little stronger in the attack. But everything changed late in the match, and it is all because of one player: Lucas Zelarayán. Columbus was rewarded free kicks twice, once in the 82nd minute, and then again in the 95th minute. Zelarayán took them both, and Sean Johnson could do nothing but watch them go into the back of the net.
Truthfully, until those free kicks, NYCFC was strong defensively. Players kept Columbus from making shots on goal, and did well to clear any danger that went Johnson’s way. They were dangerous in the attack too. In fact, if not for Eloy Room, the Pigeons might have been up 2-0 or 3-0 after the first half. Columbus’ goalkeeper kept them in the game, and unfortunately NYCFC failed to get that second goal. Instead, two incredible free kicks made them lose out on three points.
Despite the disappointing loss, the first half delivered a Ismael Tajouri-Shradi performance that fans were waiting for. Most importantly, he finally scored his first goal of the 2021 campaign, and NYCFC’s only one of the night. In the 18th minute, Valentín Castellanos first tried to take the shot, but it was blocked. Subsequently, the Argentine had to regroup, and when he realized he did not have a shot, he passed the ball to Tajouri-Shradi. The Libyan received the ball, and with one touch swept the ball past Columbus’ goalkeeper.
Additionally, Tajouri-Shradi was all over the attacking third before he was substituted out. While mainly staying on the left side and center, he found himself assisting the team on the right side at times. He speedily moved the ball with ease, and created multiple chances. This included an on-point perfect pass to Castellanos in the 35th minute, but the striker hit the ball just wide of the mark.
Nonetheless, no matter the positive moments for the team or player, a loss is a loss. Even worse, the Pigeons only have two points in their last three games. Now, they have to go across the country and face a difficult side in Los Angeles FC. Yes, they had a good start to the season, but now the pressure is on before the break in June.
And sometimes, all it takes is one player, and two free kicks, to dismantle a team. Columbus’ Zelarayán did just that to New York City FC, and the disappointing loss will obviously sting for quite some time.