Goal-starved Crew can't find net again in frustrating loss

Goals have been as hard to find as shade in the desert for the Columbus Crew, so the last thing they needed Wednesday at the Home Depot Center was for their leading scorer to exit early.

But that’s what happened when Andrés Mendoza left in the third minute with a possible left hamstring injury.

Predictably, the Crew did not score for the second straight match and for the third time in four outings. Unfortunately for them, William Hesmer was not able to record a third consecutive shutout as the LA Galaxy downed Columbus 1-0.

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Not that Hesmer could be faulted on the goal by Sean Franklin in the 70th minute. A rebound of fa blocked free kick by David Beckham came back to Franklin for the long-range bomb that skimmed the foot of Crew midfielder Eric Gehrig and caused the ball to slightly change flight before getting past Hesmer.

At least one Columbus player (Gehrig) was able to put the ball into the net.

“We were a little bit unlucky,” said defender Josh Gardner, who played against his former club for the first time since being released by the Galaxy five years ago. “I think Will might have saved it if it wasn’t deflected.”

While coach Robert Warzycha likes to say he isn’t concerned about the scoring drought because the chances are there, the lack of quality finishing is troublesome.

There were good efforts that were fruitless such as Tommy Heinemann (above left), who subbed for Mendoza, being unable to track a ball flipped over his head to him by Emmanuel Ekpo in stoppage time.

Heinemann stretched but couldn’t get to the pass before goalkeeper Josh Saunders.

“Especially toward the end of the game, we were really taking it to them,” the forward said. “We persevered. A lot of guys put in a good effort tonight. There’s a lot of positives to take away, but we wanted to get points out of this match. LA is at the top of the league so it’s a good measuring stick for us.”

Losing Mendoza — who has seven goals — hurt, as did some poor decision-making in the final third. The best opportunities in the first half were 25-yard-plus strikes from Bernardo Anor and Robbie Rogers.

The closest the Crew (7-6-7, 28 points) came to scoring was in the 80th minute when Gardner made a rare foray into the box and snapped a header that Saunders saved.

“We had a good combination play and Robbie went wide,” Gardner said. “With a goal down and especially going against my former team, I just had a burst of energy and Robbie made a good ball. I was lucky to get a header on frame. It went right to Josh. I don’t think it bothered him that much.”

The Galaxy ran their unbeaten streak to 13 by creating 16 corners to three for the Crew. Yet the visitors had six of the 10 shots on goal.

“Overall, I think we definitely deserved a point out of it,” Gardner said.