Once again, “No Lampard, no problem.” Kwadwo Poku’s brace notches NYCFC a key point against a strong Columbus Crew SC team.

By Jeff Weisinger

If New York City FC midfielder Kwadwo Poku wanted to make a case to stay in NYCFC’s Starting XI, his performance in Wednesday night’s 2-2 draw at Columbus should seal his spot.

Poku brought the rain, nearly literally, in Columbus on Wednesday night, scoring his first brace of the season against the Crew in just his fifth start for NYCFC. He scored in the 57th minute on a perfect pass from captain David Villa and then again off of a corner kick in the 66th minute off of a pass headed to him by Andrew Jacobson.

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“That’s why I am in there – to create and score some goals, so it has been good,” Poku said. “Just working with these players around me has given me confidence. I have the ability and I can do it, so I should keep going.”

The brace was his first in MLS play this season and his second overall. He had a brace in U.S Open Cup play against the New York Cosmos back on June 17.

NYCFC would be wise to keep Poku in the starting lineup. In Poku’s five starts with the Blues, NYCFC is 4-0-1, while Poku has scored four goals in MLS and seven assists, tying him with Villa for the club lead. Villa’s seventh assist came on Poku’s first goal of the night.

“He’s an important player for us right now, making critical plays for us in the attacking third, so I’m really pleased with that,” head coach Jason Kreis said.

The Blues had another come-from-behind performance in the second half, taking the lead in the second-45 minute frame against a top-three team in the Eastern Conference for the second straight week. The draw gives NYCFC a huge point in the standings, putting them in a three-way tie with Montreal and Orlando City for the sixth and final playoff spot.

Montreal currently holds the sixth playoff seed in the East with more wins than both Orlando City and NYCFC.

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“I think that we need to feel good about the fact that we got  one point in a very difficult place to play against what I think is a very good team,” Kreis said. “To come back from being down a goal in the first half again shows our guys that we can do it, that we can play. I think there was a lot of really good soccer out there tonight, so I feel good about it and hopefully the players do as well.”

The Crew went up 1-0 in the 24th minute on a goal by MLS’ leading scorer Kei Kamara, his 18th of the year. Ethan Finlay notched his 13th assist of the year on the goal, coming down the right side of the box, crossing it to Kamara, who got behind Jefferson Mena, right in front of goalkeeper Josh Saunders in the net and tapped it in easily.

After the Blues went up 2-1 on Poku’s second goal in the 66th, NYCFC’s backline had committed their worst mistake on the night, allowing Cedrick Mabwati to run free after passing it to Kamara on a counter-attack. Kamara drew three defenders, but still found Mabwati, who beat Saunders to the far post in a one-on-one in the 72nd minute to tie the match at two apiece.

Things got a bit tricky when the refs postponed the game in the 77th minute due to lightning in the area. Play resumed just over an hour later and both teams played through the rest of the draw.

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