In a battle to break the third-place tie in the East, the Columbus Crew took advantage of goals from Andres Mendoza and Bernardo Anor and a second half ejection of Lovel Palmer to take a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo at Robertson Stadium on Saturday.
Sweltering temperatures at first kick forced both sides to start at a slow pace early in the match. With the sun still on full display and the heat index in the triple digits both teams got off to a metered start. The lack of energy and choppy play led to bad plays from both teams, but it was Columbus who capitalized first in the 41st minute when Mendoza finished an Anor through ball in the penalty area by slotting it to the left of Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall to give the Crew a 1-0 lead late in the first half.
A series of physical tackles accompanied the choppy play on Saturday evening. The Dynamo took two yellow cards in the first half – in the 43rd minute to Lovel Palmer and 46th minute to Hunter Freeman. Coming out of the locker room down a goal, Houston found themselves further behind the eight ball when Lovel Palmer was shown his second yellow of the evening for taking down Anor as the midfielder attempted to dribble across the midfield line in the 53rd minute.
Houston seemed energized despite its shorthanded state and was on the front foot for 15 minutes after Palmer’s ejection. The diminished Dynamo side consistently pushed the ball into the final third, creating several chances. The best came when Davis released rookie Will Bruin down the left sideline and past a prone Chad Marshall. Bruin fired a bullet at Hesmer, who parried the shot. Ashe collected the rebound and found Davis at the top of the box who dribbled toward the endline but Hesmer was once again up to task saving the Davis shot.
With the Dynamo unable to capitalize in that stretch, Anor put the game away for the Crew in the 77th minute. The midfielder made an attacking run into the Dynamo penalty box, firing a shot that ‘keeper Tally Hall saved. But Hall was unable to retain the deflection and Anor followed his shot with an angled goal that put the Crew up 2-0, securing the Crew's first-ever win at Robertson Stadium.
With the win the Crew takes sole possession of third place in the East with 21 points while Houston slips to fourth and stays on 18 points. The Crew host defending MLS Cup champion Colorado next Sunday while Houston travels to D.C. Saturday night.
CLB -- Andres Mendoza 5 (Bernardo Anor 1) 41
CLB -- Bernardo Anor 1 (unassisted) 77
Columbus Crew -- William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Julius James, Chad Marshall, Josh Gardner, Eddie Gaven, Rich Balchan, Emmanuel Ekpo (Kevin Burns 84), Bernardo Anor, Andres Mendoza (Justin Meram 64), Tommy Heinemann (Dejan Rusmir 89).
Houston Dynamo -- Tally Hall, Hunter Freeman, Bobby Boswell, Andre Hainault, Corey Ashe, Colin Clark (Danny Cruz 62), Geoff Cameron, Lovel Palmer, Brad Davis, Cam Weaver (Brian Ching 62), Will Bruin (Jason Garey 76).
HOU -- Hunter Freeman (caution; Reckless Tackle) 43
HOU -- Lovel Palmer (caution; Reckless Tackle) 46+
CLB -- Bernardo Anor (caution; Reckless Tackle) 49
HOU -- Lovel Palmer (caution; Reckless Tackle) 52
HOU -- Lovel Palmer (ejection; Second Caution) 52
CLB -- Tommy Heinemann (caution; Reckless Foul) 83
Referee: Jasen Anno
Referee's Assistants: Fabio Tovar; Ian Anderson
4th Official: Juan Guzman
Time of Game: 1:53