In a season of disappointment and very few victories, the Columbus Crew set a new mark for futility on Saturday night, losing 4-1 to Red Bull New York. It was the first three-goal margin of defeat this season, and the second time in the four games that the team conceded four goals. The Crew's has not won a league game since May 24th, a stretch of six games.
The two teams entered the game with largely similar stories. Like Columbus, New York had not won a league game in several weeks - since June 8th in the case of the Red Bulls. They sported identical 4-5-8 records, and were tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. New York could even be said to be a step worse, having lost to the NASL's New York Cosmos in the Open Cup.
One area where the Red Bulls are superior, however, is on the attack - and that distinction showed clearly on Saturday. Bradley Wright-Phillips entered the game as the leading scorer in Major League Soccer, and extended that tally with his 15th goal of the season to open the scoring.
Columbus' leading scorer, meanwhile, is Federico Higuain - whose six goals is well short of the mark set by Wright-Phillips. Dominic Oduro has already been shipped out after going scoreless through the first half of the season, while the team's other notable threat - Jairo Arrieta - was forced to leave the game with a hamstring injury in the first half.
First year forward Adam Bedell replaced Arrieta, and rewarded Gregg Berhalter's faith in him by scoring an equalizer late in the first half. The strike, a quickly-taken shot on a bounce from the top of the penalty area, was the sort of feat that is difficult to envision coming from Arrieta.
Unfortunately, the Crew fell behind again on the stroke of half time. Thierry Henry restored the New York advantage, shooting unmarked into the far side netting after Steve Clark produced two highlight-reel saves on Wright-Phillips.
The second half, while not devoid of quality play from Columbus, saw the team increasingly fall behind their hosts. Columbus created some dangerous chances in the opening minutes, particularly through Wil Trapp and Federico Higuain, but fell behind 3-1 in the 56th minute through a Lloyd Sam strike.
Coach Berhalter eventually turned to Aaron Schoenfeld, replacing Ethan Finlay as the team switched to a two-forward alignment. Schoenfeld, unfortunately, showed only glimpses of the sort of form that pushed him to the top of the USL scoring charts.
Insult added to injury late in the game, as Bernardo Anor was sent off for kicking the ball into a prone Chris Duvall. The humiliation was completed in stoppage time when Eric Alexander finished a breakaway thanks to an alert pass from Henry.
What it means
With the loss, the Crew drop into sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference, three points behind New York for the final playoff spot. They are a single point ahead of Philadelphia, although the Union have played one additional game.
Columbus will play twice at home next week, starting with a Wednesday game against Sporting Kansas City. They will then host Montreal on Saturday before taking a break from league play for a friendly against Crystal Palace.
Timeline of events
2' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - short, cleared)
10' Corner kick, New York (shot over crossbar)
17' 0-1 Bradley Wright-Phillips (Thierry Henry, Eric Alexander)
24' Adam Bedell replaces Jairo Arrieta
33' Corner kick, New York (right side, headed on by Columbus)
39' 1-1 Adam Bedell (Ethan Finlay)
43' Caution, Bernardo Anor (reckless tackle on Eric Alexander)
45' 1-2 Thierry Henry (unassisted)
51' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - short, headed clear)
54' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - short, no shot taken)
56' 1-3 Lloyd Sam (Thierry Henry)
58' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - headed clear)
59' Tyson Wahl replaces Michael Parkhurst
61' Dax McCarty replaces Bobby Convey
70' Aaron Schoenfeld replaces Ethan Finlay
72' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - out of bounds)
73' Caution, Luis Robles (delay of game)
82' Ibrahim Sekagya replaces Bradley Wright-Phillips
84' Caution, Tony Tchani (foul on Chris Duvall)
84' Caution, Bernardo Anor (unsportsmanlike play on Chris Duvall)
84' Ejection, Bernardo Anor (second yellow card)
89' Caution, Lloyd Sam (reckless tackle on Tony Tchani)
91+ 1-4 Eric Alexander (Thierry Henry, Lloyd Sam)
92+ Andre Akpan replaces Thierry Henry
Steve Clark, Chad Barson, Eric Gehrig, Michael Parkhurst (Tyson Wahl 59'), Bernardo Anor, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Ben Speas, Jairo Arrieta (Adam Bedell 24')
Matt Lampson, Kevan George, Dan Paladini, Justin Meram, Aaron Schoenfeld, Adam Bedell
Luis Robles, Chris Duvall, Jamison Olave, Matt Miazga, Ambroise Oyongo, Lloyd Sam, Eric Alexander, Tim Cahill, Bobby Convey (Dax McCarty 61'), Bradley Wright-Phillips, Thierry Henry
Ryan Meara, Ibrahim Sekagya, Kosuke Kimura, Peguy Luyindula, Connor Lade, Andre Akpan