The Columbus Crew have struggled in 2014 when conceding first. Head coach Gregg Berhalter has discussed how allowing the first goal makes it difficult for the Black and Gold to play their possession-style game.
With only two wins on the season when the opponent scores first, the Crew appeared to be in serious trouble when they found themselves down 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo 39 minutes into Saturday's match. On this night though, the Black and Gold would not go quietly, fighting back in the second half to earn a 2-2 draw.
Heading into the weekend, the Columbus players discussed the importance of this match. The Dynamo entered the game just five points behind the Crew in the Eastern Conference standings after two consecutive wins and the players were looking at this game as a six-point contest.
The game opened with back and forth action before Houston took the lead after 12 minutes. Brad Davis' third corner kick of the game was intended for A.J. Cochran, but deflected off Columbus forward Aaron Schoenfeld and beat goalkeeper Steve Clark for the early 1-0 advantage.
The Dynamo fed off the momentum of the early goal, creating several dangerous chances.
In the 23rd minute, the Black and Gold were awarded a penalty kicked after the center official judged that Schoenfeld was pulled down in the box on a Columbus corner. After consulting with the sideline official, referee Ricardo Salazer waived off the spot kick.
Both teams had more opportunities to find the back of the net before the end of the first half, but it was Houston who capitalized just six minutes before the break. Omar Cummings attacked the Crew back line and played forward Giles Barnes in behind center backs Tyson Wahl and Michael Parkhurst. Clark came outside his six-yard box to close down the angle on the shot, but Barnes chipped over him for the 2-0 advantage.
Berhalter was clearly displeased with the team's performance, as he made two changes at the break bringing Bernardo Anor on for Justin Meram in a like-for-like swap of two wingers and Hector Jimenez in for defender Eric Gehrig to add more offense.
Although neither change had a direct impact, the Crew's infusion of offense quickly cut the deficit in half. Left back Waylon Francis took a throw in and found Wil Trapp in the middle of the park. The central midfielder let fly from 25-yards out and found the back of the net for the first time in his young career.
The Black and Gold continued to press for the equalizer after scoring in order to stay in playoff contention. Just six minutes later, they were rewarded as Francis again got forward and delivered a cross that Ethan Finlay powered home with his head from the back post.
Both sides looked for the win over the final period of the match. Columbus thought they had a second half penalty kick in the 82nd minutes, when Salazar pointed to the spot believing there was a handball in the box by the Dynamo, but for the second time on the night, the center official talked with a linesman and decided to take the call away.
The players spoke of getting three points in this game, but will certainly take a tie after falling behind by two. The Black and Gold return home next weekend in another Eastern Conference battle with the New England Revolution.