COLUMBUS – In a high-stakes match in Columbus during the push for the Major League Soccer playoffs on Saturday evening, Crew SC came away with a pivotal, 3-2, victory over the New York Red Bulls thanks to goals by midfielder Justin Meram and defenders Jonathan Mensah and Josh Williams. The ever-playmaking Federico Higuainwrote history at MAPFRE Stadium, delivering three assists — a first for a Crew SC player since Guillermo Barros Schelotto's 2008 MLS Cup-winning performance.
The Black & Gold remain unbeaten in their last seven matches racing into the final three matches of the 2017 regular season. Columbus (14-12-5, 47 points) distanced itself from the Red Bulls and jumped over the idle Atlanta United FC — which plays tomorrow — and into fourth place in the MLS Eastern Conference standings. New York (12-11-6, 42 points) remains in the sixth and final playoff spot in the standings with the Montreal Impact hot on its tail.
Mensah scored his second goal of the season during the sixth minute on a set piece. Higuain delivered the free-kick assist before Mensah headed it home towards the left post to put the Black & Gold ahead early.
The Red Bulls equalized in the 14th minute when New York midfielder Sean Davis wrestled the ball away from multiple Crew SC defenders before crossing and finding forward Bradley Wright-Philips, who booted it home while barely being able to stay on sides.
Meram picked up a long ball from Higuain in the 54th minute and took on New York defender Fidel Escobar. J9 dribbled and cut to his right then fired the ball toward the right post, scoring his 12th goal this season — nine having come at MAPFRE Stadium.
Another set piece goal came in the 66th minute for Crew SC. A bending corner kick by Higuain found the head of Williams, who knocked home his first MLS goal since 2013 and the fifth of his career.
New York added a goal on a penalty kick before the match ran its course. After video review, it was confirmed that Mensah fouled an attacking Gonzalo Veron in the box. The midfielder stepped up and converted the penalty kick past Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen, bringing the score to 3-2 for the night.
Higuain’s crucial three assists brought his season total to 10 and his career total to 45. Three assists by a player in one match had never happened in a Columbus regular season match before Saturday.
Despite the victory, Crew SC only led the match in two statistical categories, shots on target (6-5) and clearances (20-16).
The Black & Gold remain at home in the push for the playoffs when they play D.C. United on Saturday, September 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Columbus closes the regular season on the road at Orlando City SC on October 15 and at New York City FC on October 22.
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium (Columbus, Ohio)
Referee: Fotis Bazakos
Assistants: Brian Poeschel, Peter Balciunas
Fourth Official: Ricardo Salazar
Video Assistant Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
6’ – CLB – Jonathan Mensah (Federico Higuain)
14’ – NY – Bradley Wright-Philips (Sean Davis)
54’ – CLB – Justin Meram (Federico Higuain)
66’ – CLB – Josh Williams (Federico Higuain)
72’ – NY – Gonzalo Veron (PK)
NY – Kemar Lawrence (Caution) 40’
CLB – Hector Jimenez (Caution) 42’
CLB – Federico Higuain (Caution) 71’
NY – Bradley Wright-Philips (Caution) 73’
NY – Muhamed Keita (Caution) 86’
CLB – Jukka Raitala (Caution) 90’
CLB – Pedro Santos (Caution) 90’+2’
Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Hector Jimenez (Jukka Raitala 75’), Josh Williams, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful; Mohammed Abu (Artur 57’), Wil Trapp ©; Justin Meram (Kekuta Manneh 68’), Federico Higuain, Pedro Santos; Ola Kamara
Substitutes not used: Logan Ketterer, Lalas Abubakar, Niko Hansen, Cristian Martinez
New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles ©; Michael Murillo (Connor Lade 46’), Fidel Escobar, Aaron Long (Muhamed Keita 68’), Damien Perrinelle, Kemar Lawrence; Sasha Kljestan (Gonzalo Veron 59’), Felipe, Tyler Adams, Sean Davis; Bradley Wright-Phillips
Substitutes not used: Ryan Meara, Sal Zizzo, Derrick Etienne, Jr., Alex Muyl
Running with the Bulls
Saturday’s match was the 67th all-time between Crew SC and the Red Bulls. New York owns a slight majority of the total outcomes at a record of 30-27-10 with a plus-14 goal differential. In terms of matches in Columbus, the Black & Gold hold a record of 17-12-5 against RBNY with a plus-2 differential.
A total of 27 fouls occurred during the game at MAPFRE Stadium. Referee Fotis Bazakos also handed out seven yellow cards, four to Columbus and three to New York.
Crew SC’s fortress
The win brought the Black & Gold’s season home win total to 11 tying the record for most in club history.