Photos: Columbus Crew’s Win Against the Red Bulls
A managerial stroke of genius from Columbus Crew SC boss Gregg Berhalter set up the black and gold to grab a precious victory during Sunday’s first-leg Semifinal. Crew SC held off the Supporters Shield winning New York Red Bulls 1-0 at a euphoric MAPFRE Stadium.
Berhalter did the unexpected and put midfield maestro and on-form playmaker Federico Higuain on the bench, meanwhile switching the Crew’s well established 4-2-3-1 formation to a more traditional 4-4-2. It effectively threw New York’s game plan out of the window, as the away side looked out of sorts, lacking a clear plan on how to deal with a more direct attacking Crew SC.
The plan appeared to be about keeping the score at 0-0 for the first 45 minutes. Neither side were able to create anything of note in a first-half of tight football and the Crew looked happy to sit back and frustrate their opposition.
Immediately at the start of the second-half Berthalter pulled out his ace-in-the-hole by throwing Higuain into the game and reverting back to the usual possession-based football the Crew have become known for. It wasn’t long before the gamble paid off.
New York were slow to adapt, and Columbus took the lead just after the hour mark. A deft back heal from Higuain found Gyasi Zardes in front of the goal, and the Crew SC striker slotted the ball past Red Bulls ‘keeper Luis Robles to break the deadlock.
Columbus managed to hold on to the massively important clean-sheet, thanks in part to some rugged defending from defender Jonathan Mensah and a world-class last-minute save from Crew SC ‘keeper Zack Steffen.
Columbus will travel to New York for the second-leg next Sunday to decide who continues the march toward MLS Cup 2018.
Matt Ellis is a freelance photographer who covers bands that visit the city and the Columbus Crew MLS team. More about Matt can be found at Matt Ellis Photography.