BRONX, N.Y. — Games in hand are only positives if a team can win those games and that’s just what New York City FC did Wednesday night, defeating Columbus Crew SC, 1-0, at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night.
And that the result came ahead of the second Hudson River Derby clash of the season was even more important.
That’s the only thing, though, NYCFC coach Dome Torrent was pleased with.
“I’m very happy for three points,” Torrent said. “I say congratulations just for the three points to our players. But maybe we play one of the best first halves of the season and one of the worst second halves of the season. I’m not happy about that.”
With the win, third-place NYCFC (12-5-8, 44 points) created some separation at the top of the Eastern Conference, moving within one point of Atlanta United and the Philadelphia Union with a game in hand on the Five Stripes and two on the Union.
“I think this was a really important game,” said goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who made six saves for his first clean sheet since a 2-0 win at LA Galaxy May 11. “Dome gave us a message before the game not to look past this game, obviously with the derby on the weekend. I think everybody’s focus was on this match, knowing that we had a couple games in hand and knowing that we had the opportunity tonight to continue to climb the table.”
Aug 21, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Columbus Crew SC midfielder Eduardo Sosa (20) controls the ball against New York City FC midfielder Alexander Ring (8) during the first half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Taty Castellanos continued his hot streak with his fifth goal in the last four goals and 10th of the season in the 36th minute. The Argentine was chipped behind the Crew SC defense by fellow countryman Maxi Moralez and Castellanos finished clinically low and inside the far post.
Castellanos had NYCFC’s first quality scoring chance in the 10th minute, but his shot from the edge of the 18-yard box was saved by a diving Eloy Room. Nine minutes later, Alex Ring latched onto a Moralez corner kick and bounced a first-time attempt on target. But Room parried away for another corner.
At halftime, Torrent said his message was to play in the same way as his team did in the first half, just a bit quicker. Instead, when Crew SC pressed high, NYCFC reverted back to a steady stream of long balls out of the back like they displayed in a 2-1 loss at Atlanta United August 11.
“In the second half, I don’t know, it’s not New York City Football Club,” Torrent said. “It’s another team.”
Chances for an equalizer were few and far between for Columbus (7-15-6, 27 points), with the visitors’ best coming in the 69th minute when Sean Johnson raced off his line after Harrison Afful’s heavy touch.
The ball spun back toward the net after the deflection, but second-half substitute Jordan Hamilton headed wide of the open net.
Alexandru Mitrita nearly added an insurance goal, blasting past the Crew SC defense, but Room pushed away his shot four minutes from full time. Keaton Parks also put a thunderous shot on frame in second-half stoppage time, but Room again made the save.
Both teams have a quick turnaround to rivalry games on the weekend with NYCFC hosting the New York Red Bulls Saturday night, while Crew SC return to MAPFRE Stadium to meet FC Cincinnati Sunday.
Before the game, Torrent implored his team to not look past Crew SC knowing the Red Bulls were on the horizon. But now the focus shifts.
“For me the most important thing was this game,” Torrent said. “Because if you’re not able to win this game, forget about it, Red Bulls. I know it’s important because it’s a derby. I know that, for the fans. But it’s three points. We will try to win the game because I know how important it is for the fans. But for me the most important game is the next game.”