Jair Benitez; Eddie Gaven
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Columbus unable to finish off Dallas

As much as the Crew blame the man in the middle for their stunning 2-2 draw at FC Dallas on Saturday, the real culprit lies within.

Sure, referee Jasen Anno had several controversial calls and non-calls—maybe none more important than an apparent missed handball that led directly to Eric Avila’s equalizer with mere seconds left in stoppage time to deny the Crew three points—but if the Crew had played smarter and crisper, they would have walked out of Pizza Hut Park a whole lot happier.

Watch: Full match highlights

“It’s tough to lose on the last kick,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “If you give up a goal in the last minute, especially on the last kick, you’re always going to find something that you should have, could have done better. It was a lot of different things.”

For example, all Emilio Renteria had to do was dribble outside of FCD defender Ugo Ihemelu and taken the ball to the Crew corner and he likely could have iced the game. Instead, Rentería tried a fake inside and had the ball stripped at midfield.

“The guy played well and took the ball away from him,” Warzycha said. “[Rentería] should have passed the ball to somebody and gone to the corner.”

The turnover led to another sloppy play when Emmanuel Ekpo tripped Avila to set up a free kick from about 22 yards in the 92nd minute. The ball was played short to David Ferreira and goalkeeper William Hesmer was forced into a monstrous save at the near post.

Columbus was livid about the quick restart.

“The ref was counting the yards and he was ready to blow the whistle then he let them play,” midfielder Adam Moffat said. “It’s really disappointing, really disappointing because we were so close to winning it.”

The ensuing clearance sent the ball about 30 yards out and that’s when all hell broke loose. The Crew’s Guillermo Barros Schelotto tried to kick the ball downfield but it hit Avila. Schelotto screamed and signaled for a handball instead of pursuing Avila and it cost the Crew dearly as the FCD midfielder stepped into a shot that eluded four five Crew and kissed the left upright before going in.

Anno was immediately under siege from all directions by a gold wave. Hesmer raced out toward midfield to confront the official and defender Danny O’Rourke was issued a red card for abusive language.

“We saw a handball before he took the shot,” Warzycha said. “He used it to control the ball. The referee didn’t call it or didn’t see it.”

Moffat said there was an even bigger problem in the closing minutes that saw FC Dallas’ unrelenting pursuit of the tying goal.

“When you give five or six free kicks away it’s going to be trouble,” he said. “We’ve got to play smarter.”

The late goal capped a frustrating night for the Crew. Rentería was on the field because Eddie Gaven had to leave in the 72nd minute with a split lip after being bloodied by Atiba Harris. There was no foul.

“It was an obvious elbow,” Warzycha said.

Ekpo subbed for Robbie Rogers, who left at halftime after sustaining a sprained ankle. Also, forward Steven Lenhart limped off the field with a cramp in the 70th minute and was replaced by Jason Garey.

Good thing the Crew don’t play again until April 24.

Despite the tribulations and turmoil, maybe it was a just result. The Crew were certainly outplayed in the first half and trailed 1-0 before Lenhart set up his brother-in-law Adam Moffat for the equalizer in the 52nd minute.

Moffat married Lenhart’s sister, Jennifer, in December, and Lenhart finally got around to giving him a wedding present with a nice diagonal ball in the box.

The goal helped Moffat erase the memories of his stinker match against Toronto FC in the opener that included his breakaway shot that was struck so weakly that even Bill Buckner would have stopped it.

“I’ve been working on my finishing,” Moffat said. “I was fortunate to get that one on target. It was a great cutback by Steven.”

The Crew benefitted from Anno’s penalty call against FC Dallas defender George John in the 81st minute for fouling Chad Marshall during a free kick.

Schelotto was denied from the spot by Kevin Hartman but scored his second of the season on the rebound.

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