Diaz, Zelarayan lift Columbus in 3-2 win over NYCFC
Lucas Zelarayan celebrates a goal | Photo: Sam Fahmi - Massive Report

On a muggy Saturday night in Columbus, OH., the Columbus Crew were back in action to take on New York City FC in a crucial match that had major playoff implications. The Crew were looking to rebound in a big way after a devastating collapse on Wednesday against CF Montreal.

Early in the match, the carry-over from Wednesday showed its ugly head as Malte Amundsen took a chip shot into the box that was deflected by Jonathan Mensah for an own goal to put the Pigeons of New York up 0-1. 

It looked like the Crew settled down and began to play their game and reel NYC in. With NYC having to keep tabs on where Cucho was at all times, that opened space for others to get behind the City defense and be able to take shots on Sean Johnson early on in the match.

From the beginning of the match, Luis Diaz began to give NYC trouble down the right wing. In the 20th minute, Diaz was streaking up the right to receive the pass from Lucas Zelarayan who in-turn gave a drop pass to a trailing Cucho Hernandez to score and level the game at 1-1.

Having the momentum, Columbus didn't let up. The Crew did a good job of filling the passing lanes of NYC and slowed their attack down. By doing that Columbus forced NYC to back pedal their attack and reset back to Johnson.

Sean Johnson, who leads the league in clean sheets with 12, misjudged a teammate and lofted the ball to Diaz who was on the edge of the 18-yard box. Diaz found a waiting Zelarayan to his left as the Armenian midfielder collected and found the top right corner past Johnson's outstretched right hand. 

The score at the half was 2-1 in favor of the Crew. In what started off on the wrong foot for Columbus, quickly turned around as the Crew never quit fighting in the first half.

Second Half

Coming out of halftime, the Crew came out with the same intensity they played with in the first half. Continuing to wreak havoc on NYC, Diaz was able to beat the pigeon defenders with his speed, forcing the City defenders to concede yellow cards.

Late in the 63rd minute, NYC started to frustrate the Crew. What started as a foul on the attacking end for Columbus, the City attack forced Columbus to trail back with quick passing. Midfielder Aidan Morris had the task of marking Maxi Moralez, but the NYCFC midfielder was too quick for the Crew Academy product. 

On bad slip from Morris saw Gabriel Pereira have a shot on goal that was deflected off of defender Milos Degenek's foot and into the back of the net to level the score 2-2.

The captain, Jonathan Mensah, looked to settle the team down on the ensuing kickoff. But the focus remained on Eloy Room of Columbus, after the Crew netminder made two big saves to keep the game tied. In the 69th minute, Room came up with his biggest save of the match with a sliding save on a darting Pereria by getting his foot on the ball to disrupt the play and stopping a chance of a goal.

Columbus were issued a free kick about 27-yards from goal, after Anton Tinnerholm tripped up Etienne Jr who was in on goal against Johnson. On the ensuing free kick, the Crew were able to keep the possession in NYC final third after Zelarayan's attempt was blocked by the wall. 

With the Columbus now holding possession yet again, the ball found Diaz on the right side, who lifted a small cross into the box to Zelarayan to fire home, getting Columbus the go-ahead goal. 

The Crew held off a heart-stopping attack from NYCFC to gain a much needed three points against the second-seeded team in the Eastern Conference. 

What's next?

The Crew go on the road next week to Commerce City to take on the Colorado Rapids in what will be the first game against Gyasi Zardes since being traded to Colorado.