Columbus Crew SC have booked a spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, spoiling head coach Gerhard Struber’s debut by scoring three straight goals in a 3-2 win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday evening at MAPFRE Stadium during a Round One game of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The clubs entered halftime deadlocked at 1-1, but the Crew opened a 2-1 lead through Darlington Nagbe 23 seconds into the second half. Lucas Zelarayan first hit the post with a long-range shot, then Derrick Etienne Jr.’s shot was parried away and Nagbe followed up in the 46th minute to clean everything up.
The momentum carried into the 68th minute when Gyasi Zardes cushioned a looping header back across goal for the 3-1 lead. He latched onto a deep cross from Etienne Jr. at the back post, then supplied the eventual game-winner.
The Crew seemed to be cruising comfortably, but the Red Bulls made it 3-2 through Brian White in the 90th minute. The forward one-timed home a low, driven Jared Stroud cross from the right flank, making for a frenetic finish that nearly saw Tom Barlow provide an equalizer in the 93rd minute.
To spark their three-goal run, Columbus first had to respond to an opening tally from RBNY youngster Caden Clark. The midfielder laced home a left-footed strike from near the PK spot after a poor Crew clearance, giving New York a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute.
However, Columbus quickly responded in the 26th minute via a Pedro Santos penalty kick to draw the game level at 1-1. He was tripped up in the 18-yard box by Dru Yearwood, then narrowly beat goalkeeper Ryan Meara with his left-footed shot.
Now, Columbus awaits the winner of No. 2 Toronto FC and No. 7 Nashville SC, as they get set for a meeting on Sunday, Nov. 29.