By James Nalton.
Substitute Gabe Segal rescued a point for New York City FC in added time of the second half against Columbus Crew, just as it looked like the team would slump to another disappointing defeat.
New York City had been caught napping against the run of play at the beginning of the second half when Alexandru Matan burst in behind the defence, crossing for Christian Ramírez to open the scoring for Columbus.
That goal meant Nick Cushing’s side is now ten games without a win, but the late equaliser added a feelgood element to this tied game.
With trips to Atlanta, Portland, and Montreal to come, and with the team yet to win away this season, it is not the brightest of outlooks, but, again, there will be positivity courtesy of Segal’s goal, not least because it was the team’s only recognised center-forward who scored it.
Opponents Columbus Crew were without Lucas Zelarayan, who was away on international duty with Armenia, so NYC already had one bonus heading into this fixture at Yankee Stadium, but they couldn’t quite make the most of that their opponents’ big absence.
Cushing’s team made a promising start. Justin Haak managed to find a path through Columbus, sending Gabriel Pereira into a dangerous area. After sitting down former NYCFC left-back Malte Amundsen the winger fired a cross towards Talles Magno, and though the covering defenders managed to clear it, the move was encouraging.
Talles was back in the center-forward position having played there earlier in the season as the head coach tries to replace the strikers who left last season without having had much help from the club in the transfer market.
Pereira did manage to find Talles shortly after, but the forward was offside and saw his close-range effort saved by Patrick Schulte anyway. But again — promising.
The Brazilian looked useful in the central role, and after some good hold-up play earlier in a move, he almost got on the end of a Braian Cufre cross but couldn’t get enough on it and it flew wide.
Nevertheless, it was probably the best chance of the half. It was also another close-range effort, showing Talles’ desire to get in and around the six-yard box, which is the type of threat NYCFC has been missing in many games this season.
Talles Magno with good hold-up play in midfield before getting to the six-yard box and nearly scoring. At least #NYCFC has someone doing a good impression of a striker in this game. pic.twitter.com/LrD0KiEiKt
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) June 17, 2023
The other good chance of the first half fell to Columbus, who threatened when Cucho Hernandez latched on to a nice through-ball from Yaw Yeboah. But at speed, and under pressure from James Sands chasing back, breathing down his neck and doing well not to foul him, Cucho scuffed the ball wide and Luis Barraza remained relatively untested.
The NYCFC goalkeeper was contributing to the build-up play as the team played out from the back, and it was useful to have the extra outfield player in these situations.
There was another chance for Talles at the start of the first half as Amundsen slipped once again, but the Brazilian could only get away an awkward shot after losing some momentum.
NYCFC momentum was halted further when the goal came, Matan and Ramírez combining crisply and at speed leaving the home side’s defence in their wake to clinically and ruthlessly open the scoring.
City players had put in shifts all over the field for 45 minutes, but one lapse of concentration at a throw-in at the start of the second half was enough for the Crew to capitalise.
NYCFC went fairly quiet after that. They did have one chance when Santi Rodriguez looped in a cross from a free kick which Alfredo Morales managed to get on the end of, but it didn’t much trouble Schulte.
New York’s play became littered with sloppiness. Overhit passes in good positions and losses of possession made a second Columbus goal seem more likely than an equaliser at that stage.
Tactically, the ideas have looked good for New York City throughout this season, but the execution hasn’t been enough for them to become a genuine threat in attack.
Cushing could argue it’s because he hasn’t been supported in the transfer market, and he would have a point. There has been no replacement for last season’s top scorer Taty Castellanos or even for backup striker Heber who left for Seattle Sounders.
The second-half introduction of the one striker on the books, Segal, who arrived on a free transfer from FC Köln in the offseason, added plenty of endeavour against Columbus and this was eventually rewarded with a dramatic equalising goal.
It was a real striker’s finish too. An opportunistic effort from a deflected ball over the top after fellow substitute Richy Ledesma tried to switch play. Instead, it looped over the defence and Segal was on hand to finish superbly. Importantly.
Though it was one of those ties that felt almost like a victory given the late nature of the goal, for New York City, the summer transfer market cannot open soon enough, though it will have to wait until July.
Fans will hope there is already a quality striker lined up in the hope they can save the club’s season.
For now, though, Segal deserves the plaudits and his place in the team for his application and work rate, and also for dragging NYCFC out of a rut with a well-taken, timely goal.