Justin Meram's quick and low ball to the right corner wasn't particular pretty, but it didn't have to be to break a 54-minute scoreless streak.
Meram's score in the 83rd minute was the go ahead goal as the Columbus Crew beat NYCFC, 2-1, Saturday at Yankee Stadium. NYC FC drops to 7-13-7 this season.
NYC FC, which entered the day as the MLS Eastern Conference No. 7 seed, one away from the final playoff spot, was streaky for large portions of the game and couldn't score in big moments.
"Columbus did a lot of things well," NYC FC coach Jason Kreis said. "They were overloading the right side to get us down the right wing in the first half. I think it's a team that has a very good idea of how and where and when they want to attack.
"In the second half they didn't allow us to enter their half. It's typical for a lot of teams to back down, but they kept pressing, kept an aggressive mindset and they deserve the three points."
Kreis said the high expectations placed on his team because of international stars such as Frank Lampard, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo are unfair, adding that it's hard to succeed as an expansion team.
Lampard, who started the game at midfield, made his first appearance since suffering a left quadriceps strain Aug. 9 against the Red Bulls in New Jersey, but wasn't a factor.
Lampard, 37, isn't "match fit" yet, Kreis said, but it's a starting point.
Villa got his team off to an aggressive start with three scoring chances from the left wing in the opening three minutes, but failed to capitalize. NYC FC connected on multiple tight passes within the 18-yard line, but had nothing to show for its efforts.
Columbus struck first on a corner kick in the 10th minute when midfielder Federico Higuain's header bounced into the upper left 90. The Crew went on to win most midfield battles for the next 18 minutes of play, forcing NYC FC to utilize the long ball.
Pirlo, a midfielder, quarterbacked NYC FC's offense with precise long balls to Villa and Patrick Mullins, but the half was marred by wide shots during short scoring windows.
NYC FC midfielder Andrew Jacobson broke through in the 29th minute, tying the game at 1. His blast from 30 yards out was redirected into the net by diving goalkeeper Steve Clark.
The Crew recovered quickly, but lost some of their control in a slower and grittier second half with less East-West action. Shorter passes led to more sudden breaks, notably during the final third of the second half when Villa and Columbus forward Kei Kamara each nearly scored, going wide and off the crossbar respectively.
"As the usual, unfortunately, we play well for 15-20 minutes, then we don't for about 30 minutes, then we play really well for another 30 minutes," Pirlo said through a translator.