NEW YORK — The Columbus Crew advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, beating New York City FC 4-3 in the two-leg series after falling 2-0 in the second game Sunday night.
The Crew will host the Supporters Shield winner Toronto FC in Game 1 of the conference finals Nov. 21. Toronto will be without stars Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. Altidore and New York Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan were sent off after a tunnel melee at halftime in the other semifinal game earlier Sunday and Giovinco received his second yellow card in two games.
NYC’s David Villa opened the scoring in the 16th minute on a penalty kick as Zack Steffen dove the wrong way. It came after Josh Williams tripped Rodney Wallace in a non-threatening position at the corner of the 18-yard box.
Andraz Struna made it 2-0 in the 53rd on a deflected shot off the head of Crew defender Jonathan Mensah.
“None of us are happy with (the result), I think it was sloppy,” Columbus captain Wil Trapp said. “We came out with some good intensity in the first half but the penalty deflated things a little bit. We have to be better, Toronto is a quality team and they’re going to capitalize on some of these chances so we just have to be smarter, be cleaner in the back and then just be calmer. At the end of the day I think we were just anxious.”
NYC had two quality goal-scoring opportunities in the 66th minute but Maximiliano Moralez was just wide on a header and Jack Harrison was denied on a breakaway by Steffen. In the 70th, Wallace chested a cross, cut back his defender and hit the post with a shot.
“Of course, I am upset that we are not going to the Eastern Conference finals. I think there was a space there to score the third goal. I’m upset, frustrated, disappointed,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said. “We give ourselves the best chance to make it happen, and we knew how difficult and big the challenge was. Today, we played really well, we created chances. We had situations where we didn’t make the best decisions, but we scored these two goals and I thought the third one would come.”
Former AC Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who announced his retirement in October, entered in the 90th minute for NYC.
In the first leg Tuesday night, Artur started a three-goal outburst for Columbus in the second half, shortly after NYC went down a man, and the Crew won 4-1.