The Columbus Crew struggled to a 1-1 tie against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night. The Black & Gold attack failed to create danger going forward while the hosts created several high-quality chances. Memo Rodriguez tallied a first half goal for the Dynamo while the Crew pulled even on a second half own goal.
There was significant turnover in the starting lineup from last Sunday’s win against New York City FC. Darlington Nagbe returned to the starting 11 after being sidelined eight games, last playing against FC Cincinnati in early September. The Crew also got the starting goalkeeper Eloy Room back after missing three games. New signing Krisztian Nemeth made his first start for the club, replacing injury scratch Gyasi Zardes.
The new-look lineup didn’t pay dividends initially as the hosts looked much more comfortable on the ball and had a significant edge in possession early on. The home side had an early chance with Darwin Quintero sending in a shot from deep that forced a Room parry.
Following the Room save, Houston tried to break through via a set piece as defender Sam Junqua’s attempt was blocked and Quintero’s chance was off target.
The Dynamo created another dangerous opportunity in the 25th minute. Room punched away Rodriguez’s 15-yard shot in the 25th minute.
Houston struck with a lightning-quick 37th minute counter. Zarek Valentin forced a turnover and sent a low ball forward to former Crew winger Niko Hansen. Hansen’s service found Rodriguez in the penalty area and he fired a low shot forcing a diving Room save. The attacker followed the shot and tapped in from the goal line to make the game 1-0.
The Crew got the team’s first shot of the game off a turnover just before halftime. Pedro Santos was outnumbered and took a hopeful shot in the 44th minute that was well off target.
Santos had another chance in stoppage time of the first half as the Crew created a chance from cycling possession at midfield. As Aboubacar Keita slipped a wide pass into Emmanuel Boateng. The speedy winger squared the ball to Santos in the heart of the penalty area but his left-footed shot went wide of goal.
The second half continued much as the first, with the Dynamo comfortable and the Crew attack stymied. Lucas Zelarayan entered as a halftime substitute but showed the rust of a three-game layoff.
Santos created the best chance for the Crew off a free kick in the 58th minute. His left-footed service curled dangerously through the Houston penalty area. Nemeth’s stab at the ball missed by inches and Derrek Etienne Jr’s shot from a tight angle went wide.
The Crew nearly broke through with an own goal off a hopeful Harrison Afful cross into the penalty box. Valentin, the Houston defender, tried to tap the ball out but hit a shot on target. Dynamo keeper Marko Maric was forced into a save that then rang off the post.
An own goal came, however, through minutes later. Again the service came from the right as second half substitute Luis Diaz drove a low cross into the 18-yard box that Cabrera redirected into the Houston goal to tie the game at 1-1 in the 67th minute.
The Crew attack sputtered again after pressuring the Dynamo backline just before the goal. The Black & Gold single shot on goal in the game came on a Youness Mokhtar effort in the 78th minute that Marek saved with a body block. It was the best chance Columbus had to close out the game.
Houston had a golden opportunity late in the contest to take all three points. The Crew defense struggled with a José Bizama dribble into the left side of the box. Bizama’s service landed at the feet of Quintero, but he blazed his shot high moments before second half stoppage.
The Crew offense that was high flying through the summer but in the beginning of fall remains uneven. Columbus was outshot 24-8. The shots on goal favored Houston 6-1. No matter who was on the field for the Black & Gold, the offense didn’t look convincing for more than moments at a time.
Santos had a spell late in the first half where he was creating half chances. The Crew’s best chances on the night came through the surging runs of substitute Luis Diaz, but that stretch lasted for about 10 minutes before the Dynamo adapted to the danger. Beyond those brief instances, Columbus never truly threatened Houston.
The Crew got some help on the night as several of the long-term injured players returned to the lineup and a new signing made his debut. Nagbe went 63 minutes in his return. It didn’t really look like he’s missed nearly two months. He didn’t miss a pass during his time on the field. Room went the full 90 and made five saves. Zelarayan played 45 minutes and struggled to make an impact on the game. New signing Nemeth went 78 minutes. He struggled with service but had a couple of plays where he held up the ball and did have a blocked overhead kick that forced a corner.
With the tie, Columbus moves to 10-4-5 and 35 points on the year. The Black & Gold remain in third place in the Eastern Conference, six points behind the surging Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC who are tied at the top. The Crew has a quick turnaround with the team traveling to Washington to play D.C. United on Wednesday. It’s an 8 p.m. ET start from Audi Field. The rest of the season will be a constant string of games as the team will play four games in 12 days.