The Columbus Crew lost their third straight game, and sixth in the last seven games, with a 3-1 defeat to the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night. A ninth minute penalty kick set Columbus on the back foot early, and while the team created several quality scoring chances most were squandered until a late own goal made things interesting with 15 minutes to play.
Saturday's loss leaves the Crew with a 6-5-11 record (W-D-L), the worst mark at this stage of a season since 2006. The only other season with results this poor was the team's inaugural campaign in 1996.
Houston created the game's first scoring chance in the eigth minute, and it was bad luck for the home team that Will Bruin got the ball caught under his feet in the area after a toe-poked pass from Giles Barnes.
Less than a minute later, however, another attack down the right flank gave the Dynamo a penalty kick. Giles Barnes cut into the area with a full head of steam, only to be taken down by the combination of Chad Marshall and Matt Lampson. Referee Kevin Stott pointed immediately to the spot, from where Brad Davis made no mistake in tucking his shot inside the left post.
The next several minutes saw the best attacking play of the evening from Columbus, with a number of quality scoring chances coming from a variety of players. Jairo Arrieta had perhaps the best opportunity in the 13th minute. Federico Higuain threaded a long pass from the flank that released Arrieta between the two Houston center backs, but Tally Hall alertly made a kick save with his left foot to snuff out the chance.
Bernardo Anor saw a shot spin wide of the left post in the 16th minute, cutting short build-up play that had included Oduro on the flank and Arrieta running as a target forward.
The visitors' best chance of the half came in the 21st minute. Chad Marshall got his head onto a corner kick from Federico Higuain, and Tally Hall was forced to make an awkward save on the goal line to preserve the Dynamo advantage.
Houston recovered their posture after this ten minute sequence, and nearly doubled their advantage in the 26th minute when Ricardo Clark flicked a header on frame. Lampson, turning to follow the cross, was just able to reach backwards and grab the ball to his left.
Just after half an hour, the Crew's luck failed them again. Agustin Viana got the ball caught under his feet at midfield, giving up possession easily to Oscar Boniek Garcia. Garcia's interception kicked off a 3-2 rush to Lampson's goal that ended with Will Bruin cutting past Danny O'Rourke before tucking the ball home for a 2-0 lead.
Head coach Robert Warzycha made a pair of changes at halftime, replacing Matias Sanchez and Jairo Arrieta with Kevan George and Ryan Finley respectively.
Ryan Finley, who has played sparingly this season, was sent on at halftime in place of Arrieta. Also like Arrieta, he was picked out by Higuain for a pass through the defense and a chance to put the Crew into the game. Where Arrieta's shot was saved, however, Finley hesitated and ultimately allowed three Dynamo defenders to recover and strip the ball without a shot taken.
Finley had a chance at redemption in the 75th minute when he took a pass from Kevan George (also a halftime substitute) and turned to goal at the top of the area. Before he could take the shot, however, Jermaine Taylor reached around him and tired to clear the ball. Taylor only succeeded in lobbing his goalkeeper, however, sending the ball into the net for an own goal.
The goal energized the Crew attack, and with ten minutes to play the team nearly found an equalizer. Justin Meram, having replaced Agustin Viana as the Crew shifted to a more offensive posture, tracked down a ball on the right end line and picked out Bernardo Anor arriving late to the far post. Incredibly, however, Anor's open shot at goal curled wide, kissing the outside of the post as the Venezuelan held his head in disbelief.
Cam Weaver put the game out of reach in the 85th minute as the Columbus defense was caught flat and exhausted. Oscar Boniek Garcia's cross from the left flank flew just over Chad Marshall's awkward attempted header, where both Will Bruin and Cam Weaver were waiting. Weaver was first to the ball, lashing home a shot from the top of the area.
Ryan Finley had a last chance in stoppage time when he was again played through the Dynamo defense, but got the ball caught under his feet before shooting wide of the post.
What it means
The Crew now sit five points behind the Chicago Fire in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, ten points behind Houston in the last playoff position. There are 12 games remaining in the regular season, including games against Toronto, Chicago, Houston and two against New England.
Columbus will return home next Saturday to face New York in a bid to break their three-game losing streak. The Crew has not lost four consecutive games since early 2005 (April 23 - May 14).
Timeline of events
9' Penalty kick, Houston (Chad Marshall tackles Giles Barnes)
9' Caution, Chad Marshall (tackle from behind on Giles Barnes)
9' 0-1 Brad Davis (penalty kick)
14' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - cleared)
22' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - shot saved)
25' Corner kick, Houston (right side - headed clear)
27' Caution, Oscar Boniek Garcia (reckless tackle on Matias Sanchez)
31' 0-2 Will Bruin (Oscar Boniek Garcia)
42' Caution, Agustin Viana (obstruction on Oscar Boniek Garcia)
45' Kevan George replaces Matias Sanchez
45' Ryan Finley replaces Jairo Arrieta
51' Warren Creavalle replaces Ricardo Clark
61' Caution, Federico Higuain (not sure?)
65' Corner kick, Houston (right side - headed clear)
67' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - cleared)
71' Justin Meram replaces Agustin Viana
75' 1-2 Jermaine Taylor (own goal)
76' Corner kick, Columbus (left side - cleared)
78' Jason Johnson replaces Brad Davis
81' Cam Weaver replaces Giles Barnes
82' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - cleared)
84' Corner kick, Houston (right side - headed clear)
85' 1-3 Cam Weaver (unassisted)
88' Corner kick, Columbus (right side - headed clear)
93' Corner kick, Houston (left side - taken short, backwards)
94' Corner kick, Houston (left side - taken short)
Matt Lampson, Josh Williams, Danny O'Rourke, Chad Marshall, Agustin Viana (Justin Meram 71'), Matias Sanchez (Kevan George 45'), Wil Trapp, Dominic Oduro, Federico Higuain, Bernardo Anor, Jairo Arrieta (Ryan Finley 45')
Daniel Withrow, Chad Barson, Ben Speas, Ethan Finlay
Tally Hall, Kofi Sarkodie, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe, Bobby Boswell, Ricardo Clark (Warren Creavalle 51'), Adam Moffat, Giles Barnes (Cam Weaver 81'), Brad Davis (Jason Johnson 78'), Oscar Boniek Garcia, Will Bruin
Tyler Deric, Eric Brunner, Brian Ching, Omar Cummings