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A Valient Fight To the Death: Three Thoughts On NYCFC’s 2-0 “Win” Over the Columbus Crew

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With their backs against the wall, NYCFC valiantly fought to the death against the Columbus Crew this Sunday evening. Despite winning the match 2-0, NYCFC lost their Eastern Conference semi-final against the Crew 3-4 on aggregate, failing to advance out of the Eastern Conference semi-finals for the second consecutive year.

A year ago, NYCFC found themselves in a similar hole against Toronto FC. Down 2-0 on aggregate heading into a must-win match, NYCFC failed to show up and got launched out of the ballpark, losing 5-0 in that match.

With that fresh in their minds, Vieira’s men from the opening whistle went after the Crew and bent the Ohio club’s spirits and aggregate lead. However, no matter how many chances NYCFC had, the Crew didn’t break, but my oh my was it close.

Here are three of my thoughts on the match:

NYCFC Valiantly Fought to the Death

Following an own goal by the Crew in the 56th minute, the blue jerseys on the slippery Yankee Stadium grass found themselves in the Crew half for the entirety of the second half. Despite numerous chances from Rodney Wallace, Maxi Moralez and Jack Harrison, the Boys in Blue couldn’t find a way past Zack Steffen or the posts.

“I don’t know what Zack Steffen did, but these posts are his best friend during these MLS playoffs,” ESPN’s Taylor Twellman stated during the match. It is still uncertain how the Crew did not concede more than two goals. NYCFC dictated play in the second half but couldn’t find the all-important third goal.

Regardless of the ending, NYCFC fought from start to finish tonight, showing that they weren’t going to give up and that they learned their lesson from last season. Bravo.

NYCFC Players Other Than David Villa Stepped Up

Last Tuesday night in Columbus was a nightmare scenario come to life for NYCFC. Not only was the scoreline 4-1 in favor of the Crew, but errors riddled the NYCFC roster. No player had a performance to be proud of, plain and simple.

Needing their best performance of the year on Sunday, NYCFC responded to the urgency phenomenally well. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson recovered mightily from a woeful performance in Columbus to keep a much overlooked clean sheet tonight. Wingers Rodney Wallace and Jack Harrison found their early-season form and proved to be menacing attackers for the Columbus defense. Alex Ring tidied things up in the midfield, and everywhere you look, the team played better all-around.

Though their performances weren’t entirely on par with their best ones of the year, the NYCFC roster surrounding David Villa did their part tonight.

“They gave everything that they had tonight and I’m really proud about the way that they played and they fought,” Patrick Vieira stated following the match. Sure enough, the former Arsenal man was spot on.

Pirlo is Now Retired, But What Was That Substitute Appearance?
Much to the surprise of almost every NYCFC fan, Andrea Pirlo made a last-minute substitute appearance for NYCFC. With the home side chasing a desperate third goal, Pirlo, who is naturally a maestro in the back of the midfield, found himself in the thick of a physical and gritty affair.

In his seven minutes or so of playing time, the last of his career, Pirlo overhit two passes and failed to provide a spark. Was this a swan song for the Italian? Possibly, as the decision by Vieira to bring on his 38-year-old designated player perplexed the masses, despite everyone at Yankee Stadium begging for Pirlo to orchestrate a magical moment.

“He’s been good professionally,” Vieira stated in reflection on Pirlo. “He’s been a really good example for the young players that we have in our team.”

All in all, it didn’t make much sense to see Pirlo at the end of the match. At least some of you witnessed Pirlo end his historic career on a baseball field in the Bronx. Who could have guessed that?


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