Columbus Crew SC was desperate to get something out of a very rough stretch of three games in eight days. Instead, the offensive goalless streak continues and the losing streak reached four games. Mauro Manotas scored early and Tomas Martinez secured the result late.
The team was heavily changed after the Wednesday game. Federico Higuain, Jonathan Mensah, and Artur were rested while Pedro Santos started the game on the bench. Lalas Abubakar made his first appearance of the season in a start. Ricardo Clark and Eduardo Sosa came into the lineup to replace the previous starters.
Houston got the start the team hoped for with a midfield turnover. Alberth Elis pressured Abubakar and won the ball at midfield. He pressed into the Crew defensive zone and fired a low cross across the Crew penalty box where Manotas clipped the ball towards goal as Zack Steffen dove the wrong way. The ball trickled past the goal line and gave the home side an early lead.
The visitors struggled to recover, barely seeing much of the ball in the following minutes. It took until the 10th minute before the Crew was able to get into the offensive zone with a corner kick that resulted in a shot off target.
Columbus had to wait until the 28th minute to get a shot on goal. Forward Gyasi Zardes took the ball on a solo run and uncorked a left-footed shot from distance. The Crew offense continued to struggle as the Dynamo confidently held off the backup led Black & Gold offense.
The home side got a flurry of shots off to end the half that forced a furious Crew rearguard action. The visitors held fast and kept the game 1-0 as the halftime whistle blew.
Houston got a dangerous free kick opportunity in the 52nd minute when Memo Rodriguez rang the crossbar, but the real danger came minutes later. Manotas came in on the right side and fired in a shot that forced a Steffen parry. The ballf ell to Martínez who made no mistake from 15 yards out and the home side had second goal.
Columbus pushed for a goal, bringing on winger Pedro Santos and then Niko Hansen as the team pushed numbers forward. Abubakar put a header right at Joe Willis and Santos nearly scored an Olympico goal off of a 78th minute corner, but it was parried by an excellent Willis save.
The Crew offense has now gone 201 minutes without a goal. That’s two consecutive games and the final 21 minutes of the game against Portland. The Dynamo were in control from the beginning of the game. The Houston defense kept the Black & Gold to four shots on target. They now have eight goals in 10 games. The task doesn’t get any easier with a trip to D.C. United up next.
It’s been a long time since the Crew lost four straight. It’s been 14 years — April 23rd through May 14th of the 2005 season. Columbus lost at the Colorado Rapids, the Chicago Fire at home, at D.C. United then home to Sporting Kansas City. Then head coach Greg Andrulis had less than two months left in his tenure. That was a team led by Edson Buddle’s nine goals and Simon Elliott’s 11 assists. There’s more talent on this Crew team than the 2005 vintage, but it’s a sign of the task this team will have in a very challenging Eastern Conference as they vie for a playoff spot.
The Crew fall to 4-5-1 on the season with 13 points through 10 games. They are holding onto the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. Next, it’s another game against D.C. United as they head to Audi Field to face the conference leaders.