Columbus Crew SC got the better of 10-man New York City FC 4-1 in the first leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal on Tuesday night.
Columbus was playing in its first home match since reports surfaced that owner Anthony Precourt was exploring the idea of moving the team to Austin, Texas, and "Save the Crew" signs were visible everywhere in the stands at MAPFRE Stadium.
And the hosts got off to the perfect start against the run of play when Ola Kamara pounced on a rebound from a Federico Higuain shot and tapped home to make it 1-0.
Jack Harrison was let down by his first touch in the opening 15 minutes, squandering two great early chances for the visitors when played in on goal as New York City chased its first.
Next up for NYCFC was David Villa. The former Barcelona player first shot wide after being played through by Frederic Brillant and then hit the post square on following a turnover by the Crew in midfield.
The game was opening up and Columbus should have made it 2-0 before the break, but Kamara fired over the bar from 18 yards when he could have set up either Higuain or Justin Meram for easier chances.
The sloppy play from the first half continued and NYCFC nearly capitalized on another Columbus turnover -- this time in its own area -- but Villa's shot from the spilled ball was deflected wide of the Crew goal.
Minutes after the miss, Alexander Callens was sent off for the visitors for an elbow to the face of Meram after the official consulted with the video assistant and ruled the foul a straight red card.
Now with a man advantage, Columbus was firmly on the front foot and the pressure told as Higuain picked out Artur on the counter-attack and the Crew's No. 7 cut back to his right and fired past Sean Johnson to make it 2-0.
Eleven minutes later, Meram was in on the NYCFC goal after another turnover and his low line drive slipped under Johnson to make it 3-0.
Down three goals and a man, the visitors clawed one back after Columbus defender Jonathan Mensah slipped in the penalty area and Villa spun and shot first time to get New York an important away strike.
But just before the final whistle, Harrison Afful might have put the tie out of reach for Patrick Vieira's team, beating three defenders and poking home from close range to reach the final scoreline ahead of the second leg at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 5.