Robbie Rogers scored the lone goal and the Crew defense stymied the top offense in the league on a windy, rainy and raw Saturday night for a 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City.
The Crew (2-1-2) set a team record with their fourth straight clean sheet and tied another by extending their shutout streak to 373 minutes as William Hesmer made two first-half saves.
Rogers broke the tie in the 53rd minute with his team-best second goal, but much of the work was done by second-year midfielder Dilly Duka, who earned his first point in his eighth career start.
On the previous play, Duka had been knocked down just inside the box and went looking for a foul. When referee Juan Guzman — in his first MLS game — gave none, the ball was cleared out of the box.
The Crew’s Kevin Burns gathered the ball and sent a service back in the penalty area where Duka flicked the pass back to Rogers on the left. Rogers chested the ball, then slotted a shot past Jimmy Nielsen to equal his goal output of the past two seasons. Burns also earned his first career point with a secondary assist.
Nielsen kept KC (1-2-1) in the match with a brilliant diving stop off Eddie Gaven to foil a odd-man attack with Rogers in the 68th minute. Tommy Heinemann, who just entered the match, used his first touch to head the ball ahead to Rogers, who found Gaven in the middle of the box.
The game got more difficult for KC four minutes later when defender Julio Cesar was sent off for a second caution after receiving a hand-ball infraction while challenging Heinemann. The Crew were also a beneficiary of FC Dallas red card in the last home match.
The Crew underwent several changes to the first XI, notably right midfielder Gaven moving up to pair with forward Emilio Renteria for a 4-4-2 as opposed to the lone striker in the past two matches. Emmanuel Ekpo fell from a withdrawn forward into the center midfield spot occupied by Burns, who was favored over holding midfielder Dejan Rusmir after the Serbian newcomer had started the first four games.
Rusmir was replaced in the lineup by Duka, who settled into Gaven’s old position.
Kansas City went with the same 11 as they used in the 3-3 tie at Vancouver on April 2, including former Ohio State midfielder Roger Espinoza.
The Crew still have not allowed or scored a goal in the first half this season and showed little offensive spark while limiting KC to two scoring chances.
Sporting were unable to exploit a Crew turnover deep in their end in the 15th minute because Hesmer covered the near (left) post to make a left-footed save on Kei Kamara after the forward took a pass from Milos Stojcev.
Hesmer made another save on the opposite side in the 29th when he grabbed a header by C.J. Sapong from 8 yards after a free kick by Kamara.
Columbus had just one shot on goal through 45 minutes, a languid roller from 21 yards by Duka in the 21st minute.
The Crew next play at Toronto FC on April 23. Kansas City continue their 10-game trip to open the season at New England on April 23.
Columbus Crew 1, Sporting Kansas City 0
CLB -- Robbie Rogers 2 (Dilly Duka 1, Kevin Burns 1) 53
Sporting Kansas City -- Jimmy Nielsen, Michael Harrington, Matt Besler, Julio Cesar, Roger Espinoza, Kei Kamara (Korede Aiyegbusi 87), Milos Stojcev (Shavar Thomas 75), Davy Arnaud (Graham Zusi 71), Birahim Diop, C.J. Sapong, Teal Bunbury.
Substitutes Not Used: Stephane Auvray, Kevin Ellis, Craig Rocastle, Eric Kronberg.
Columbus Crew -- William Hesmer, Chad Marshall, Sebastian Miranda, Julius James, Rich Balchan, Dilly Duka, Kevin Burns, Emmanuel Ekpo (Dejan Rusmir 89), Robbie Rogers (Jeff Cunningham 77), Eddie Gaven, Emilio Renteria (Tommy Heinemann 67).
Substitutes Not Used: Josh Gardner, Andy Iro, Andres Mendoza, Andy Gruenebaum.
KC -- Julio Cesar (caution; Reckless Tackle) 50
KC -- Michael Harrington (caution; Reckless Foul) 55
KC -- Julio Cesar (caution; Handball) 72
KC -- Julio Cesar (ejection; Second Caution) 72
KC -- Shavar Thomas (caution; Reckless Foul) 76
Referee: Juan Guzman
Referee's Assistants: -Ian Anderson; Kevin Duliba
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
Time of Game: 1:51