Considering the difficulities of a second road match in four days -- and being forced to play without midfield engine Wil Trapp -- nearly everything went according to plan for the Columbus Crew on Wednesday evening at Houston.
Columbus was dangerous in attack throughout the entire match, start to finish. The Crew racked up 18 shots to Houston's 11, nine on target to Houston's five and passed to an 86% accuracy rate. They held the ball 55.6% of the time, and completed nearly 50% more final third passes than the Dynamo.
While these statistics are accurate, they also don't matter in the end, as the only number of significance to the Crew is the 1-0 scoreline in favor of Houston.
The home side broke a 0-0 tie with Will Bruin's 50th-minute header off of set piece service from Brad Davis, and held on for the victory.
"It was a good set piece," said Columbus Sporting Director & Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. "[Bruin] did well. We know he's dangerous in the air, we focused on that over these last couple of days, but it was a well-served ball and a well-timed header."
The goal was an unfortunate setback for a Crew team that had already generated the lion's share of chances to that point, doubling Houston in shots at halftime by an 8-4 count.
"We did well, I thought we played a good game," said forward Dominic Oduro. "We just fell asleep a little bit on the set piece. That was one thing that we knew was their strength ... Overall, I thought we played well.
"We just have to be strong in the attacking half. We had chances, we just couldn't finish them. We believe in ourselves, we're a strong team, and we respect them, but at the end of the day, we played a good game, and it's unfortunate we couldn't come out with a point or points."
Following Bruin's goal, the Crew pressed for the equalizer, continuing to test Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall and the Houston defense. Jairo Arrieta was active in the box all night long, and Justin Meram struck the left post from distance in the 84th minute on what was the best Crew chance of the night, but it wasn't to be for Columbus.
"I thought this was a game that we could have won," said defender Josh Williams. "It's tough to go into Houston, with the conditions, and we just played Sunday, but at the end of the day, we don't want to make excuses. We're not that type of team. [Berhalter] had us prepared. We did everything we could. We just didn't go out there and perform."
Although the Crew certainly did not play poorly in attack throughout the first half, Williams reiterated the importance of getting on the board first.
"I thought we controlled possession the whole game ... The goal obviously changed things, but that's something we need to work on. We can't wait for them to punch us in the mouth first. We have to go out and punch a team in the mouth first and score, so they start pressing, and then we open them up."
Although frustrated, the Crew is optimistic they can turn their positive play into goals very soon.
"We have to be hungry. We have to want it, we have to need it," said Oduro. "It's something that we've been working on. It's a little bit harder when you play teams that are sitting a little bit back, to counter on you, but it's something that we have to find a way to penetrate behind the defense. We can do it; we hit the post today, there were some chances where we could have [scored] ... We're getting there. We have some games to go, and hopefully we can get it right."
The task becomes clear now for Columbus in its return to Crew Stadium on Saturday vs. Vancouver (7:30 p.m. ET, Time Warner Cable SportsChannel): snap the six-game winless streak, and earn three points.
"We need three points," said Williams. "It's a must-win."