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Columbus Crew draw heavily-rotated New York Red Bulls squad

Mar 2, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; New Columbus Crew SC ownership group (from left) Jimmy Haslam, Dee Haslam, and Peter Edwards before the game against the New York Red Bulls at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Crew SC had all the hope in the world entering the 2019 season. With the threat of relocation finally gone, soccer was once again the main focus of the club. However, even with their opponents playing a heavily rotated squad, the Crew were unable to find a way to victory, drawing the New York Red Bulls, 1-1, at MAPFRE Stadium Saturday afternoon.

”We didn’t get enough rhythm in the first half,” Columbus coach Caleb Porter said. “We played the game on their terms, let them disrupt us, and let them make it the kind of game that they play…I thought they executed well.”

The Red Bulls struck first in the sixth minute when Andreas Ivan got behind the Crew defense. Despite being marked by Harrison Afful, the Romanian was left open for the goal when Afful jumped too early on the cross from Florian Valot. Ivan was able to place his header perfectly, freezing Zack Steffen for the early lead.

Columbus equalized before half on their seventh corner kick. In the 41st minute, Federico Higuain sent in the kick and Gaston Sauro was able to flick the ball towards the net. A lucky deflection off the face of Michael Murillo sent Luis Robles the wrong way, and the center back celebrated the first goal of his Crew career. The assist moved Higuain within two of the all time Crew record, which is held by former player and coach Robert Warzycha. 

“I am so happy. I was fighting for two years to be in this moment,” Sauro said. “I had an opportunity to score, and unlucky that we didn’t get the win at home that we needed.”

Yellow cards came easy in the first half. Despite the game not being overly physical, there were three bookings. Afful picked one up in the 15th minute for an incidental elbow to the head on a leaping clearance. Aaron Long received one in the 27th minute for a hard foul to the back of Higuain, and Wil Trapp got the final yellow of the half in the 31st for a sliding tackle the just caught the boot of Ivan as he was streaking towards the net.

The second half was less eventful. New York used all three subs by the 63rd minute, bringing on more defensive players in an attempt to slow the game down and leave Columbus with at least one point. The team’s primary focus is on the midweek matchup against Santos Laguna in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals.

Cristian Casseres Jr and Pedro Santos both drew yellow cards for hard fouls, and there was some pushing and shoving between the teams that didn’t amount to much. The Crew only managed two shots on goal in the second half, both coming in stoppage time. Questions remain about who on the team can score goals outside of the combo of Gyasi Zardes and Higuain, who were largely kept in check.

“I thought tonight was great,” Trapp said. “The energy in the stadium was wonderful. I thought we created some energetic moments with our play, but ultimately not to get the three points was disappointing, not only for us but for the fans.”

Columbus will search for their first win of the season next week on the road agains the New England Revolution.

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