Gregg Berhalter’s team took the lead after just seven minutes when Federico Higuain, brother of Gonzalo, found Justin Meram out on the left with an incisive, quick-witted pass. Meram duly cut the ball back from the touchline, finding the oncoming Ethan Finlay who smashed it into the back of the net. This was the first time that the three of them had combined to cut New York apart. It would not be the last.
Five minutes later, Higuan again found the gap between Andoni Iraola and Fred Brillant. Miram cut the ball back again, only for Kai Kamara to sidefoot wide from close range. Within a minute, Kamara had gone close again, chasing down the dawdling New York keeper Josh Saunders and nearly sliding the ball into the net. The miss would cost Columbus.
New York restarted play, Andrea Pirlo found Iraola on the right and no-one closed him down. The Spaniard had all the time he needed to fix his coordinates, loft in a cross and watch happily as David Villa headed it home. Vieira’s side were back in the game. Somehow.
By now, a pattern was emerging. New York would push up and lose the ball and then Higuain, the bustling, dynamic attacking midfielder, would look up and push the ball into acres of space for either Meram, Finlay or Kamara to chase. What was unclear was why Vieira continued to let it happen. Perhaps he was waiting for half-time. Yes, that was bound to be it. You don’t want to make dramatic changes in the middle of the half, do you? He was waiting for half time. Except he wasn’t.
New York came out after the break and continued to make the same mistakes. There was some method in the madness. The intention seemed to be to push the fullbacks up and in, dragging markers and creating space for the wide men. But it didn’t work.
Three minutes into the second half, Ronaldo Matarrita picked up the ball on the halfway line and drove all the way to the edge of the box, releasing a shot that Steve Clark saved comfortably. But that left a Matarrita-shaped gap in the New York defence and Columbus moved quickly to exploit it. Kamara received the ball in so much space that he must have acutally been quite lonely.
Taking slightly more time than was necessary and yet still not enough to cause a problem, he lashed the ball into the bottom corner. Kamara had seven shots in this match and only one of them was on target. It was this one.