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New York Red Bulls storm Columbus 3-0 for Eastern Conference finals berth

MLS Crew Red Bulls Soccer

New York Red Bulls midfielder Aaron Long (33) controls the ball in front of Columbus Crew forward Pedro Santos (7) during the first half of a soccer game, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)


New York Red Bulls came back to Red Bull Arena with plenty of work to do for a spot in the Eastern Conference finals after falling 1-0 to Columbus in the first leg of their MLS playoffs matchup.

And work they did.

Alex Muyl was credited for a messy opening goal just 14 minutes in to bring New York back level on aggregate, and a quickfire Daniel Royer double with 15 minutes to go did the trick as the Red Bulls advance to conference finals for the first time since 2015.

New York dominated the match, owning a 13-12 shot advantage that was brought closer late in garbage time, and holding Columbus to just one effort on target until the 85th minute. Muyl’s opener was accidental, as Aaron Long’s shot for the far post clipped his teammate’s foot and looped over Zack Steffan to even the aggregate scoreline at 1-1. While the hosts didn’t finish with a possessional advantage, Columbus was forced to defend for stretches and keep the Red Bulls from developing big scoring chances.

For the winning goal in the 73rd minute, New York put together a spectacular team effort that saw a pair of beautiful turns from Muyl and Bradley Wright-Phillips in the build up, plus a wonderful first-touch assist by U.S. international Tyler Adams before Royer was there to poke it home. Royer then struck just three minutes later with a powerful blast into the top corner that put the match out of sight. The brace is the third for Royer in the last three months, and it broke a long scoring drought with the 28-year-old on just one goal since his last brace in mid-August.

With Columbus not going quietly down the stretch, Luis Robles made a key save to keep out Gyasi Zardes late and keep the game from getting nervy. It also preserved the clean sheet, the club’s sixth in a row at home. New York has not conceded a goal at Red Bull Arena since a 2-1 win over LAFC on August 9.

The Red Bulls will match up against Atlanta United in the conference finals, a team they beat a combined 5-1 over two matches during the regular season.

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