The Columbus Crew ran their winning streak to four games, as their solid defense and second-half goals from Alejandro Moreno, Robbie Rogers and Adam Moffat lifted them past the San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 Saturday night.
It was the second consecutive shutout and fifth in the last 10 games for Columbus, which now sits atop the MLS Eastern Conference with a 9-3-9 record.
The MLS match was the first half of a doubleheader featuring an FC Barcelona-CD Guadalajara exhibition at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.
The Crew were once again without reigning MLS MVP and the league's leading goalscorer entering the weekend, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, as well as U.S. international Frankie Hejduk. Still, Crew head coach Robert Warzycha could call upon the same starting XI that beat Colorado 1-0 last Saturday.
The Earthquakes, coming off a 4-0 win against Seattle, also made no changes in their lineup from the previous weekend.
The first half was scoreless, as both defenses were up to the challenges thrown their way. The Crew's first chance came in the eighth minute through a free kick taken by Chad Marshall, but the Columbus center back couldn't duplicate last week's heroics. His 30-yard shot was easily caught by San Jose goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
The Earthquakes started finding some offensive rhythm at the half-hour mark. In the 30th minute, Cornell Glen took a pass from Chris Leitch in midfield and dribbled towards the top of the arc, letting fly with a left-footed effort from 25 yards, forcing Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer to dive to his right to push the shot clear of the right post.
Three minutes later, Darren Huckerby carried the ball up the left wing and cut inside, splitting two defenders at the left top corner of the penalty area. Huckerby tried a give-and-go with Cornell Glen, but Chad Marshall broke up the return pass, sweeping the ball away with a sliding tackle.
The Crew had another chance in the 42nd minute, when Eddie Gaven's long diagonal cross from the right wing reached Robbie Rogers charging the net from the left side, but Rogers glancing header went wide left.
The second half looked a lot like the first, as tight marking from both sides was the order of the day. Near the hour mark, Warzycha made a couple changes that proved pivotal. First Moreno replaced Jason Garey, then Emmanuel Ekpo came on for Eddie Gaven. The two new faces combined for the Crew's first goal soon afterwards.
In the 69th minute, Ekpo's cross from the deep right wing reached Rogers near the left post. Rogers' header across the face of goal was in turn headed home by Moreno for his fourth goal of the season.
In the 73rd minute, the Crew doubled their lead through a strong individual effort by Rogers. Rogers had the ball on the left wing, and appeared to be stopped by a pair of Earthquakes defenders just inside the penalty area. But the ball came free and Rogers pounced, slamming a 10-yard shot from a tight angle past Joe Cannon for his first goal of the season.
Moffat came on for Steven Lenhart in the 84th minute, and got on the scoresheet for the first time this season in the 87th. Gino Padula's corner kick found Moffat seven yards from goal, and his header deflected off defender Brandon McDonald and into the net to cap the 3-0 win.
The Crew now return home to face FC Dallas next Saturday, while San Jose has a week off before playing host to Kansas City on August 22.
Pete Ratajczak is a contributor to MLSnet.com.