Defense helps New York City FC to 2-0 win over Columbus Crew

May 14, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York City FC defender Alexander Callens (6) blocks a shot by Columbus Crew forward Miguel Berry (27) during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
May 14, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York City FC defender Alexander Callens (6) blocks a shot by Columbus Crew forward Miguel Berry (27) during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

On Saturday, New York City FC was back in the Bronx to take on the Columbus Crew in another exciting Eastern Conference matchup.  It was their fifth Major League Soccer home game in a row, and concluded their longest home stretch of the season, which was split between Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.

Before the match, both teams were mid-table, and looked to move up in the standings.  On the other hand, NYCFC wanted to continue their recent unbeaten streak, and preferred to pick up all three points too.

After a few goals and a strong defensive performance, the Bronx side grabbed all three points, and beat Columbus by a score of 2-0.  It was not perfect, but after some moments of brilliance, and a stronger second half, NYCFC was able to achieve the win.

At first, NYCFC started off well, and played with a much quicker pace as compared to the U.S. Open Cup fixture from Wednesday.  As such, it did not take long for them to score, for Talles Magno scored the first goal in the 9th minute.  The Brazilian was unable to be stopped by the Columbus defenders, and flicked the ball on the ground into the right side of goal from the middle of the box.  The Pigeons went in front, and never looked back.

The defense led New York City FC to 2-0 win over the Columbus Crew

Although, as the first half went on, Columbus grew into the game, and became a constant threat for NYCFC.  The Pigeons did play a little better in the second half, and in some ways had a slight edge.  Still, throughout the game, it was not the best performance, especially in the midfield.  There were numerous giveaways and poorly placed passes.  Plus, there were points where the players struggled to regain possession.

Hence, the home side had to become a defensive unit, and did just that to keep the Crew at bay.  Everyone, including attacking players like Magno and Valentín Castellanos, contributed in the defensive third.  They blocked two shots, made 14 successful tackles, and had 19 total clearances in total.  More impressively, Columbus was held to zero shots on goal.

Defensively, this was a strong performance, and this was without Malte Amundsen and Tayvon Gray, and then Maxime Chanot was on the bench.  Alexander Callens had to lead the backline and the rest of the team with protecting Sean Johnson and the goal, and his incredible effort spread throughout his fellow defenders.

Arguably, Callens was the main player responsible for keeping Columbus in check.  He alone had seven of the 19 clearances, and four of them were directly in front of Johnson.  He had one of two blocks as well, and was also able to recover the ball four times.

Also, Callens’ pace was a large part of the defensive success.  The Peruvian international was able to keep up with the Columbus players, and run with them as they attempted to run toward goal.  As a result, he reduced their opportunities in their final third, and often forced the ball to go out of play or back toward the midfield.

Somehow, the center-back was not up for the Man of the Match award, despite having another superb performance.  While the overall defensive effort was strong, it is highly possible that the Crew would have had some shots on target, and might have gotten a goal, if Callens was not on the pitch.  Nevertheless, the defense did their job, and led New York City FC to the win.

Moment of the match for New York City FC

There is no argument that the defensive effort by New York City FC is why they are leaving the Bronx with all three points.  Yet, the moment of the match was an offensive moment, and the team’s second goal too.

In the 57th minute, Keaton Parks poked the ball away from the Crew’s Lucas Zelarayán toward Maxi Moralez, and everyone was in the defensive half.  Castellanos was near the halfway point, and Moralez immediately recognized this.  The midfielder quickly sent the long ball into the path of his fellow Argentine, who had nobody in front of him.

The precision of the pass led the ball to land right at Castellanos.  The striker was then able to make the run, and made his way toward the Crew’s goal.  Meanwhile, the goalkeeper, Eloy Room, attempted to come off his line and made his way toward the Argentine.  Alas, it was the wrong move to make, and when Room was right in front of Castellanos, he chipped the ball over the goalkeeper, and put the ball into the center of goal.

Not only did that goal put NYCFC up 2-0, but it also was another moment of the Argentine connection between Moralez and Castellanos.  Due to the accuracy of the pass, and the capitalization on the goal scoring attempt, this was clearly the moment of the match.  Personally, it is the assist and goal of the year so far for the Pigeons.

In the end, the unbeaten streak continues for New York City FC.  More importantly, the team ends the long home stand with 13 out of the possible 15 points.  Hopefully, with an increase of away games in their future, they can now take this winning magic and finally find success on the road.

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