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Final

Anor's first goal highlights big night for Crew

The University of South Florida product got the goal he had been seeking.

No, not that guy.

While Jeff Cunningham’s bid to tie the all-time MLS career goal mark with his next score stalled again because of a hamstring injury that prevented him from traveling to Houston, fellow former USF standout Bernardo Anor made his first start and the rookie assisted on the opening goal by Andres Mendoza and added an insurance tally — his first — in the Crew’s impressive 2-0 victory against the Dynamo on Saturday.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Houston 0, Columbus 2

An injury to Dilly Duka and Robbie Rogers’ call-up to the US team paved the way for Anor’s second appearance, and the third-round SuperDraft selection did not disappoint.

“In practice I’ve been working at it to get some minutes on the field,” he said. “Finally, I have the opportunity to start a game and I wanted to give my 100 percent to the team because they deserve it. They have been working very hard.”

In fact, it was a night for the kids as Columbus (5-4-6) won for the first time in Houston after a loss and four ties.

Rich Balchan, the Crew’s top draft pick this year, had a steady and unspectacular game in the defensive midfield spot that was reminiscent of the quiet efficiency in years past by Brian Carroll, albeit with more pace.

Rookie Justin Meram, another first-rounder, came off the bench and flashed a burst of speed down the right flank to get the ball across to Anor for an easy put away only to see the Venezuelan somehow shoot the ball directly at goalkeeper Tall Hall with the rest of the net wide open.

Anor stayed with the play and put in the rebound with strike off his unnatural right foot in the 77th minute.

“I was so mad I couldn’t score on the first touch,” he said. “I was running so hard just to get there that I really didn’t think about anything else. When I saw the ball come to me I pushed my leg forward instead of stopping for a second and finish it calmly. I was in a rush so I ended up hitting it with the back part of my foot.”

Anor not only went 90 minutes after missing two games with a sprained ankle but he took corner kicks and drew the foul that resulted in the second yellow for Lovel Palmer in the 52nd minute.

“He played great today,” forward Tommy Heinemann said of Anor. “He had a great assist to Andres and way to stick with it on that second goal. He really stepped it up and put in a great performance. We really needed it.”

Anor set up Mendoza’s team-best fifth goal in the 41st minute with a leading ball that split the defense to enable the striker to get a clear shot into the far netting.

“That goal changed the game,” coach Robert Warzycha said.

It was only the Crew’s second first-half goal this season.

“It was huge for our psyche,” Heinemann said. “We know it’s hot. The pace of the game may be a little bit slower than other cities because of the humidity, so for us to go up early was a huge confidence builder.”

Palmer’s stomping on Anor’s ankle just after the break marked the sixth time an opponent had been ejected this season.

Even so, William Hesmer had to make two stops in the 60th minute to preserve the one-goal lead before Anor struck. In stoppage time, former Dynamo defender Julius James made a goal line save on Brian Ching to help Hesmer to his fifth shutout and the Crew’s first road win after three losses and three draws.

The team’s effort was in contrast to last Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at home when the Crew did not get a shot on goal.

“I feel that we left it all on the field,” Mendoza said. “We came here looking for the three points. We got them, and now we need to keep on working.”