NYCSportsNation
Three weeks after New York wanted to find out what it was going into the playoffs with, the chance to bring the expressive game’s title to the most expressive city in the world finally came.

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NYCFC lost in wild fashion when Benji Michel scored the winner in a shootout after Rolando Schlagel, a defender, came in to stop Gudmundur Thorarinsson when Pedro Gallese was sent off via the second yellow for coming off his line.

Now it was the Red Bulls’ turn to keep New York’s soccer season going.

They had the best possible start when Calen Clark, the 17-year old who had lit up the scene since the game-winner against Atlanta United, put NYRB on the board first.

Columbus equalized off a Pedro Santos penalty, and then came out in the second half on the front foot right from the start, fueled by an intensity we never caught on to, resulting in goals from Darlington Nagbe and Gyasi Zardes.

True to their culture, however, the Red Bulls never gave up, and eventually pulled one back through Brian White. They tried to puncture the Crew defense the rest of the way and even came close on a few chances, but the Crew held firm to send the Bulls home early for a second consecutive year.


Strengths

Goalkeeper Leadership

Ryan Meara commanded from his box, being very vocal in making sure that his team was bolted down defensively. He was under duress in a lot of spots but made a lot of key saves to keep his team in the game.

Youngsters Stepping Up

Calen Clark showed why he is the best young player in the league ever since scoring on his MLS debut. He has a knack to pop up in the right spot and showed that on Saturday.

Balanced Team

The Red Bulls have always shown a blend of offensive and defensive qualities while mostly sticking to the basics, what they do best, and an all-around style. They showed that by each guy taking their game to take it to the Crew on both sides of the ball.

Fighting Spirit

whether the Red Bulls were holding a lead or down two, they kept fighting with a pure desire to be the club they always thought they could be. They knew they had what it took to make it past this game and we don’t allow teams to bully us around anyway. So they fought to the very end against a quality-laden Crew side fighting for its 3rd Eastern Conference banner.

Weaknesses

Midfield Consistency

I thought the Red Bulls were too loose in their midfield and allowed the Crew through a bit too easily. They were not bearing down enough in transition, allowing the Crew to start free-flowing attacks and lay siege to the Red Bulls’ goal a few too many times. With people like Lucas Zelarayan and Darlington Nagbe in those attacks, that can’t afford to be a problem.

Defensive Consistency

The Red Bulls were also too loose in defense in my opinion, despite the fact that Jason Pendant had been beaten from post to post. The reason why is because their critical center, Aaron Long and Tim Parker, was not tight enough in their marking, allowing Gyazi Zardes a little too much space, resulting in a goal.


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