COLUMBUS – The Crew exited Robertson Stadium without a victory Saturday as was the case in the previous four trips to Houston but not all was lost after a 0-0 draw to extend its unbeaten streak to three.
Taking a point on the road enabled the Crew (8-2-4, 28 points) to maintain a two-point lead in the Eastern Conference over New York and gain a point on Los Angeles (36) in the race for the overall league lead.
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Columbus will make up its game in hand on the Red Bulls at home Wednesday against Kansas City and still have one fewer match than the Galaxy.
“Anytime you can go on the road against an established team like Houston in the heat out here, a tie is a good point,” Crew defender Danny O’Rourke said. “They’re a really compact team. It’s a small field. A point on the road, we’ll definitely take it. They always say a point on the road and three at home.”
There wasn’t much to the match with neither side able to maintain possession with the kickoff temperature at 90 degrees. Instead, the game was a series of hopeful long balls and occasionally scary defensive miscues that never amounted to much.
“It was really tight,” Columbus midfielder Robbie Rogers said. “The weather had something to do with it. It was difficult to play in.”
The Crew did not seem to be on top of its game from the onset in moving its road mark to 2-1-4. It was blanked for the third time in six matches and suffered a second straight whitewash on the road.
The best opportunities for Columbus came on a Guillermo Barros Schelotto attempt in the 48th minute that was off target and a Steven Lenhart strike from close range that was blocked by Houston defender Mike Chabala with eight minutes remaining.
Meanwhile, Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer had little to do in goal for his sixth shutout of the season. He had one save but Columbus only managed to put two shots on goal and recorded its first 0-0 final since a match one year ago Sunday at Chicago.
When the Crew did make attacking forays, it was usually Frankie Hejduk on overlapping runs from his right back spot that went unrewarded.
“We had to connect the passes over there, which we didn’t,” said Crew manager Robert Warzycha. “He made a lot of runs. As a player you get frustrated when the ball doesn’t go that way.”
Midfielder Eddie Gaven was off the mark several times deep in the final third when clean passes could have led to chances and forward Jason Garey was effectively marked out of the game.
However, after allowing late goals in its past two road matches that resulted in a tie with San Jose and a loss vs. Colorado, Warzycha liked what he saw at the end of the draining 90 minutes.
“It was encouraging that we were pushing for the goal instead of going to the corner," he said. "And we were actually trying to steal the game.”