Following a 5-1 loss to D.C. United on Wednesday, the Columbus Crew came to Texas as a team with nothing to lose. They played like it on Saturday night against league-leading FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park, handing the Hoops a 2-1 setback for their first home loss of the season.
Leonard Bisaku and Ritchie Kotschau scored in the final quarter-hour for the Crew, before Carlos Ruiz pulled a goal back in stoppage time for the Hoops.
From the opening kick, the Crew looked like a completely different team than the one that played in the nation's capital just three days ago. In the first half, they had nine shots, including several great opportunities while limiting FCD to only two attempts. FCD leading scorer Ruiz had no shots in the opening frame, which ended in a scoreless tie.
In the eighth minute, Columbus nearly drew first blood. Jose Retiz sent a free kick into the Hoops penalty area from about 20 yards out but a header by Marcos Gonzalez was just a bit offline and sailed wide left.
The other great scoring chance for the visitors in the first 45 minutes came in the 19th minute when Eddie Gaven's corner from the left side floated to the far post, where Jason Garey juggled the ball before sending a lob toward the far post, where Jacob Thomas was waiting to pounce. But FCD goaltender Dario Sala caught the ball midair for a great save to end the threat.
FC Dallas launched an all-out offensive assault to start the second half, but Crew goaltender Noah Palmer, making his first MLS start, was up to the challenge with five saves on the evening.
Two of those were against Ruiz in the 64th and 69th minutes, respectively. But his best stop of the night came in the 66th minute when Hoops midfielder Richard Mulrooney sent a perfect cross to the far post and Ramon Nunez hit an equally-perfect header, but Palmer was in great position to make the save and keep the game scoreless. He made two more great stops against Roberto Mina in the 77th and 82nd minutes.
Palmer also got a little help from his defenders in the 59th minute. FCD's Ronnie O'Brien's shot from about 14 yards out fell just a few yards from the goal line but Gonzalez was there to execute a perfect clearance and let his teammates rest a bit easier.
Columbus broke through in the 75th minute when Thomas hit a blistering free kick from about 25 yards out that hit the crossbar. Sala had attempted to make a play on the ball and was on the ground when the carom flew toward Leonard Bisaku at the far post. He calmly headed the ball over Sala to make it 1-0. It was his first career MLS goal.
The Crew added a second tally in the 89th minute when Ritchie Kotschau collected the ball near the midfield stripe -- and set off on a wild, mazy run where dribbled around at least four FCD defenders. At the penalty spot, the natural left-footer hit a high shot with his right and beat Sala to double the Columbus lead.
Ruiz scored in the 91st minute after a great feed from Mulrooney, for his team-leading seventh score of the season. It was another classic Ruiz goal, taking the ball with his back to goal, spinning around a defender and firing low into the left-hand corner of Palmer's goal, but it was too little too late.
Steve Hunt is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.