A stoppage-time equalizer from rookie striker Gabriel Segal snatched a point for New York City FC at the death against the Columbus Crew. NYCFC now sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with 19 points after 18 games.
The fans enjoyed some late-game excitement in the Bronx on Saturday afternoon, but another 1-1 draw sees the squad’s winless run extend to 10 straight games, including three straight draws.
Though NYCFC failed to score until the 94th minute, the attack showed signs of life, particularly in the first half. NYCFC outshot the visiting Columbus Crew 13 to 9, with five shots on goal. But in what has been customary over the past 10 matches, the forwards lacked that final touch to get the ball over the line. This goal was New York City’s first in three games.
For a majority of the second half, it seemed that NYCFC was destined for another loss before gaining a reprisal through Segal. The 22-year-old, who was subbed on in the 73rd minute for Talles Magno, showed impressive control inside the box before burying his only shot of the contest, sending the fans at Yankee Soccer Stadium into pandemonium. It was just Segal’s second goal of the season, with his first also being a late equalizer in May against Orlando City.
NYCFC: 13 shots, 5 on goal, 53% possession, 508 passes, 84.5% pass accuracy, 13 fouls
Columbus Crew: 9 shots, 2 on goal, 47% possession, 439 passes, 81.5% pass accuracy, 11 fouls
Lackluster attack – once again
It seemed during the first half that NYCFC were going to score goals for fun, as chance after chance was created inside the Columbus penalty area. But, each chance seemingly evaporated before our very eyes at the last chance possible. Coming into Saturday’s contest, NYCFC scored just five goals in their last nine games. After this draw with Columbus, that becomes six in 10 games.
Brazilian forward Talles Magno was dispatched at the No 9 position to start the match, a decision which raises many questions. As a natural winger, Talles Magno shows that he is at his best when playing off the left, or as a second striker. Both positions, however, require a target man to work off of and feed. Alas, as the season drags on, and the transfer of Taty Castellanos has yet to be finalized, the wait for that target man continues. It leaves Cushing continuing to deputize the Brazilian as the squad’s emergency No 9.
Much to the surprise of many in the stands, Talles Magno had a very lively performance before making way for Segal in the second half. The 20-year-old took three shots, two of which were on target, while also making one key pass. His biggest hindrance on the afternoon was his attacking positioning, as he was called offsides three times in the opening 15 minutes of the match.
Talles Magno was the only attacker to wilt in front of goal. Both Gabriel Pereira and Santiago Rodríguez had quiet games, to their standards, combined for just three shots, none of which were on target. The duo made four key passes (3 for Santi, 1 for Gabi), but none resulted in a goal or assist. The squads attacking impotence took a major turn following the Columbus goal early in the first half, courtesy of Christian Ramirez. Once the visitors took the lead, the mood flipped on the pitch flipped completely, with Columbus finding themselves on counter-attack after counter-attack.
Thankfully, in the end, thanks to another heroic moment for the Segal, NYCFC were able to take something away from this match. Segal, who only came on in the 73rd minute, was able to chest down a loose ball in the penalty area, before firing home the equalizer in front of the supporters section. It was the first jubilant and ruckus moment for the crowd since early in the first half, as Columbus had all but sucked the energy completely out of the stadium.
A midfield lacking creativity
A fan tweeted during the match to question why more crosses were not being sent into the box, with such prominent presences in midfield like Keaton Parks being able to push upfield. The answer to that is simple: Those players simply didn’t push forward.
NYCFC’s attack was dominated by wing play and attempting to feed Talles Magno and eventually Segal. Alfredo Morales was placed in the starting lineup in the creative No 8, yet failed to make much of an impact, with only one shot on goal and no chances created.
Playing with a back-three system allows the midfield to have cover in the event that they push forward, something that has worked in Parks’s favor many times in the past. Yet, both Parks and Morales seemed absent in attack on Saturday, leaving a major void in the creative midfielder department. Even as the Columbus Crew missed their talisman, Lucas Zeylarayán, to international duty with Armenia, the midfielders seemed to have little trouble forcing space and creating chances in the NYCFC defensive third. Yaw Yeboah, Christian Ramirez, and Alexandru Matan combined for seven key passes, with Matan responsible for feeding Ramirez for the opener.
Since the departure of Maxi Moralez, there has been a distinct lack of creative presence in the midfield, a lack which does little to help the already dreadful woes that the NYCFC attack have been dealing with all season. This lack of a creative presence was made very obvious against Columbus, as the attack became one-dimensional, operating exclusively from wide areas.
Fan anguish reaching a breaking point
The estimated attendance for Saturday’s game was reported to be 30,615, a major jump from the average attendance of around 20,000 at Yankee Soccer Stadium. But, one wouldn’t have realized it was a packed house considering as the game wore on. Fans were lively early in the match, singing, jumping, and generally providing a great backdrop for NYCFC to display their talents. But, as the match continued, chances weren’t converted, cheers turned to boos, and eventually the stadium fell into near-silence.
Though Segal’s equalizer whipped up the crowd, the overall mood in the stands and on Twitter remains critical of the club. Loss after loss, draw after draw, and just an overall lack of excitement have set in at what once was one of the most intimidating atmospheres in MLS.
This draw comes at a time when fans are beginning to demand serious change from the City Football Group, in order to return NYCFC to the perch atop the MLS where it belongs. Banners reading “Cushing Out” adorned the supporters section ahead of kickoff, with similar sentiments being shared by fans across social media.
It’s hard to blame the fans, considering the team only has just 19 points, 21 points behind first place Cincinnati. This is a position NYCFC haven’t been in since its inaugural season back in 2015, and many fans are desperate to find out how this can all be turned around.
Columbus, Christian Ramirez, 48′
NYCFC, Gabriel Segal, 90 + 4′
NYCFC, Braian Cufre, Yellow Card, Foul 32′
NYCFC, Keaton Parks, Yellow Card, Foul 90′
NYCFC, Santiago Rodriguez, Yellow Card, Dissent, 90 +6′
Referee: Pierre-Luc Lauziere
Assistant Referees: Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho and Peter Balciunas
Fourth Official: Brandon Stevis
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez
Assistant VAR: Craig Lowry