New York City made history by pinning down the second of two automatic semi-final places in the postseason playoffs in just their second full season as an MLS side.
There was an eye-catching change of set-up for the Bronx Boys as Patrick Viera lined up in a 5-2-3 formation which saw Andrea Iraola drop back into central defence and Federico Bravo utilised in central midfield.
But perhaps the most interesting change was between the sticks, where Eirik Johansen was preferred to Josh Saunders for the first time this season. The 24-year old Norwegian was called into action early but got down well to save from Ola Kamara.
But it was New York who piled on the early pressure, with Jack Harrison testing the Columbus defence with a few mazy runs.
Skipper David Villa was the next man to surge forward, but was forced into some impressive acrobatics as the Columbus ‘keeper dived at his feet.
And it was the veteran Spaniard who was the architect as New York took the lead, jinking between some sloppy Columbus defending to set up Stiven Mendoza who finished cooly.
And the main man wasn’t slowed down by the half-time break. Villa came out of the blocks at 100mph, somehow striking both posts with a stunning, curling strike that had everyone on their feet in celebration.
But in typical NYCFC fashion, Columbus soon found themselves on the scoresheet against the run of play.
Ola Kamara had been their main man all day, and he was on the end of a pinpoint cross to nod home from close range. Eirik Johansen waved goodbye to his debut shutout.
News that Toronto were ahead against the Fire, and therefore claiming the second place in the playoff semi-finals, caused Viera to introduce Khiry Shelton and Frank Lampard to the game.
But it was another Brit who was to be the hero on the night. Rookie sensation Jack Harrison was on the end of the former Chelsea and England midfielder’s scrappy throughball to lash home and give New York a lead they were never going to let slip.
And the former Manchester United trainee wasn’t done there, turning provider to set substitute Khiry Shelton through on goal just minutes later.
His fresh legs meant racing away was no issue, and he finished with aplomb to make it 3-1 New York.
There was just one man left to seal the deal.
David Villa lashed home his 23rd goal of the season in typical sensational style following some impressive hold-up play from Frank Lampard. Who else but El Guaje could send the Sixth Borough boys into dreamland?
That was it and the second place in the playoff semis was nailed down.
Congratulations, NYCFC and Patrick Viera!
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