getting sent off for the first time, in the 68th minute, for a second bookable offense.
Yet Chicago doubled the lead 10 minutes later through a remarkable goal. Oughton mis-hit a rebound attempt outside the area, and Chad Barrett collected the ball and raced away. Some 65 yards later -- with Crew striker Kei Kamara in hot pursuit the entire time, unable to even grab his jersey to pull him back -- Barrett slotted his shot past Gruenebaum for his first goal since April 21.
The Crew piled on the pressure with the manpower edge, and pulled back a goal in the 84th minute, when a corner kick pinged around the box before getting swept to Chad Marshall, who hooked a shot high into the goal. But when Danny O'Rourke was sent off two minutes later it essentially ended the Columbus chances, though Fire 'keeper Matt Pickens was called upon for one late acrobatic stop of a Frankie Hejduk drive.
Crew head coach Sigi Schmid made two changes to the team that drew 2-2 with Toronto FC the previous Saturday. Duncan Oughton made his first start of the year, in place of Stefani Miglioranzi, and Robbie Rogers started instead of the injured Andy Herron.
Here's Schmid's team (4-1-3-2): Andy Gruenebaum - Frankie Hejduk, Marcos Gonzalez, Ezra Hendrickson (Chad Marshall 60), Rusty Pierce (Eddie Gaven 72) - Danny O'Rourke - Ned Grabavoy, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Duncan Oughton - Alejandro Moreno, Robbie Rogers (Kei Kamara 78). Substitutes Not Used: Bill Gaudette, Stefani Miglioranzi, Danny Szetela, Tim Ward
"This is the way our season has gone. You know, I think we outplayed a team and a team gets four shots on goal and scores three goals. We have nine or 10 shots and we only come out with two goals," Schmid said.
It was just the second time this season the Crew had scored two goals in a game - the first since April 19, a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution.
"We did get good open looks. Alejandro [Moreno] was in three, four times; Ned Grabavoy had a great look as well. We get free kicks around the box and we can't hit the target. That's been the story of our season," Schmid said.
The Crew still have just one win on the season, though the loss to the Fire was just the third in nine matches. Still, they have fallen behind Toronto FC in the East.
"From the first game of the year when we outplayed New York in the second half and we ended up tying, we go to Salt Lake, we outplay Salt Lake and we get two balls cleared off the line. We come away with nothing. It's just frustrating. It's not like we're getting played off the field," Schmid said.
The Crew opened the season with back-to-back shutouts and allowed just three goals over their first five games. But they have now allowed nine in their last three.
"The first goal was silly and the second goal was a deflection and the third was ridiculous. It was just a comedy of errors," said Schmid.
For Duncan Oughton, it was his first start of the season after starting the final nine games in 2006. That came after he had missed the entirety of the 2005 campaign and every minute of every game to the point he re-entered the lineup on Aug. 19 after undergoing successive knee surgeries.
"Obviously changes have to happen now. We lose players -- Frankie [Hejduk] goes to the Gold Cup which is a big loss for us and Danny [O'Rourke] is suspended, so the changes are forced but we just need to get together and sort this out," Oughton said.
Houston Dynamo won back-to-back games for the first time in defense of their MLS Cup championship, claiming a 2-1 victory against the Colorado Rapids on MLS Primetime Thursday. Dynamo now have 13 points from 10 matches, moving into third place in the Western Conference, two points behind the Rapids and three adrift of conference-leading FC Dallas.
Dynamo came into the game after once again defeating FC Dallas, following a string of five losses in six games, while the Rapids were coming off a loss that put an end to a four-game unbeaten streak.
The rematch of last year's Western Conference Championship got off to a blazing start, the teams trading goals over the first 12 minutes. Dynamo opened the scoring just three minutes into the game, when Brian Mullan took a knockdown and sent Joseph Ngwenya clean through on goal. Ngwenya raced into the penalty area unmolested before slotting the ball under Bouna Coundoul for his second goal in as many games.
But in the 12th minute, Eddie Robinson was adjudged to have pulled down Conor Casey as they grappled for the ball in the area, and Jose Cancela sent Zach Wells the wrong way in converting from the spot for his first goal of the season.
Dynamo hit for the game-winner in the 63rd minute. Just seconds after coming on as a substitute, Stuart Holden took a pass from Kelly Gray in the right side of the area and lashed a rising shot past the outstretched hands of Coundoul and into the upper far corner.
Dynamo boss Dominic Kinnear made three changes to the team that defeated FC Dallas 2-1 the Sunday before at Robertson Stadium. With Pat Onstad suspended and Ricardo Clark and Brian Ching away on international duty, Zach Wells went in between the posts, Kelly Gray starting in a midfield role and Chris Wondolowski came into the strike partnership.
Here's Kinnear's team (4-1-3-2): Zach Wells - Craig Waibel, Ryan Cochrane (Patrick Ianni 84), Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett - Kelly Gray - Brian Mullan, Richard Mulrooney, Brad Davis (Corey Ashe 73) - Joseph Ngwenya, Chris Wondolowski (Stuart Holden 62). Substitutes Not Used: Jordan James, Mike Chabala, Nick Hatzke, Mike Sambursky
"We came out well, and we got an unfortunate penalty called against us. After that I think they controlled the game a little bit, but in the second half I think we were the better team," Kinnear said. "What a great goal by Stuart [Holden] with his first touch after he came onto the field. We worked so hard to get the three points tonight. There was a lot of sweat involved."
Missing four players to international duty - Onstad was called into the Canadian team after an injury, while De Rosario (Canada) and Ching and Clark (USA) were always expected to be absent - Dynamo were thrilled with the comeback victory.
"As a team, I'm happy we won. If you look at those guys personally, you can tell that they're ready to play. It's not 12 or 14 guys; we're going deep into our squad," Kinnear said. "I'm happy to see those guys playing well. I know that the story has been about guys who aren't here, but Colorado put a pretty good team on the field tonight, so that tells you about the guys in here."
Zach Wells was making his first league start ever with Dynamo (he had started three games in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup); Kelly Gray had not started since April 29, the last of four consecutive starts at right back; and Chris Wondolowski was making his second start of the season.
"It was a good, hard fought win tonight, and the guys deserve it. The young guys have to step and play since some of the senior guys are gone. I thought [Chris Wondolowski] did excellent as did Kelly [Gray] and Zach[Wells] who got us the win [in goal]," Holden said. "Kelly [Gray] was solid in the middle, and [Chris Wondolowski] was part of the first goal. All of us are looking to contribute. This is our time to shine."
In addition, Ngwenya scored for the second consecutive match in his fifth consecutive start since coming from Columbus in the deal for Alejandro Moreno.
"I'm so happy for the guys. I think they're starting to get the results for the effort. I thought, for me, that Joseph Ngwenya was the best player on the field tonight," Kinnear said. "I thought he was excellent. Not just his goal, but his hold up, his work effort, and playing the ball out. I thought he was excellent tonight.
After scoring just four goals over their first seven games, Dynamo have now scored five in their last three, including two goals in each of their last two games. The first back-to-back wins of the season have come in the first games where they've scored multiple goals back-to-back.
"We started out in a bit of a rut this season. I think we're starting to get through it," Holden said "I think Columbus is a good chance to get three wins in a row. Hopefully we'll be able to put ourselves back toward the top of the western conference."
Said Craig Waibel: "I think it's more important now than it ever could have been. We were struggling at the beginning of the season to get two wins in a row with one of them without our big three or four, it's extremely important. The young guys got their feet wet. I don't think anyone played a poor game tonight."