It was far from picturesque football, but Columbus Crew SC successfully doubled its 2016 win total Saturday night on the foot of forward Kei Kamara.
The Sierra Leonean striker converted a 21st minute penalty kick attempt to tally a victory over the Houston Dynamo on a 1-0 scoreline.
In contrast to the late PK the MAPFRE Stadium audience witnessed last week against New York City FC when David Villa got a shot from the spot in the waning minutes, a dramatic early booking in the box was instead the story this time around.
In the 18th minute, Crew SC's No. 10, Federico Higuaín, found himself in a breakaway situation with the ball. Houston was out of shape defensively, and the Argentine designated player quickly embraced the chance at a 1v1 matchup with Dynamo keeper Tyler Deric. It quickly became clear that Pipa was going to successfully sidestep the lone obstacle in his way for an easy goal.
Deric appeared to grab at Higuaín and contacted him enough roughly 15 yards from the goal to trip the midfielder, almost immediately invoking the showing of a straight red by referee Kevin Stott.
In a sloppy performance that saw the home club mired in transitional futility with nine offside calls on ill-advised long balls and errant passes, Columbus enjoyed possession for greater than 70 percent of the match—largely with an extra man, no less—but failed to do much with it.
The second half saw a renewed Columbus effort to generate chances, but Houston settled in to frustrate Crew SC. As supporters are well aware, the Black & Gold have been susceptible to counters in the past, and the Dynamo seemed content to let their opposition come to them and commit their own errors. The Texas side ultimately couldn't engineer a way to find the back of the net, but future Crew SC foes will certainly find value in the game film of blunting an offense that had been sharp just seven days earlier.
Left center back Tyson Wahl was eligible to play after an appeal of a retroactively applied red card was successful this week, and the 32-year-old Californian started in place of injured Gastón Sauro once again.
Wahl's performance was a strong one, and his commitment to following through on attempts at dispossessions and hustling efforts to aid others outside his zone were frequent sightings. He notched five clearances and three interceptions on the night, Crew SC's leader in both metrics.
Mohammed Saeid left the game in the 73rd minute after a flagrantly rough blow to the head from Alex went unnoticed by Stott, and Rodrigo Saravia replaced him as Columbus' second and final substitute.
Justin Meram was once again highly involved in runs with the ball along the left flank, and his work to outmuscle defenders to earn chances and open windows were a boon for Crew SC, as the right side struggled to penetrate meaningfully in the attacking third.
Many of Harrison Afful's forward crosses in were off target, and Ethan Finlay was a mystifying non-presence. Finlay saw the fewest touches of any Columbus player with 15, and on more than one occasion, he demonstrated frustrated demeanor while contending against DaMarcus Beasley for room to work with. He was subbed off for Ola Kamara in the 63rd minute.
The result for Columbus boosts its season record to 2-3-2 in advance of a road trip to CenturyLink Stadium next Saturday to take on Seattle Sounders FC.