Alejandro Moreno battled to score his fourth goal of the year in the 22nd minute, and the Columbus Crew made it stand up, defeating the Houston Dynamo 1-0 on Saturday night at Crew Stadium.
Moreno fought for a loose ball off a corner kick, and while certainly not his prettiest goal of the season, it was enough to give the Crew their fourth victory in five games this season, the fourth time this year Columbus has made a first-half lead stand up and give Sigi Schmid his 100th regular-season victory, only the second coach in MLS history to reach that milestone.
The Dynamo are still winless on the campaign after winning back-to-back MLS championships, losing for the second time this season after three consecutive draws.
Trying to change their fortunes, Houston went close to opening an early lead. After earning a free kick just outside the box, midfielder Brad Davis lofted a pass to Franco Caraccio who sent his header on goal, but it was not enough to beat Crew 'keeper Will Hesmer.
Shortly thereafter Columbus had a glorious chance at the lead when Houston 'keeper Pat Onstad was whistled for handling a back pass in the area. It set up a very close range set piece for the Crew, but Guillermo Barros Schelotto sent the effort into the Dynamo wall.
In the 22nd minute the Crew drew first blood. Barros Schelotto took a corner kick for the Crew and center back Chad Marshall rushed into the middle of the box and sent a header towards goal. Dynamo defender Patrick Ianni was able to get a foot to it and save the goal, but not for long. Moreno was lurking in a dangerous spot and after a struggle to keep his feet under him he drove the ball to the back of the net for his third goal in the last three games against Houston.
Houston squandered a chance to equalize in the 35th minute. Attacking down the right wing Dwayne De Rosario lobbed a cross into the box. After a few missed opportunities to clear by the Crew defense, the Dynamo looked to have their first goal of the night as Hesmer missed the ball when he charged out of his net after the bouncing cross.
But as Caraccio tried to push the ball into the goal, the Crew's Brian Carroll and Danny O'Rourke circled back to protect their net and blocked Caraccio from scoring the tying goal, stopping the ball on the line while allowing Hesmer the time he needed to circle back and pounce on the ball.
Moreno narrowly missed doubling the Crew lead early in the second half. Only two minutes into the half Schelotto sent in another good ball off a corner kick. Moreno streaked in front of two Houston defenders and was able to get to the ball first, but Onstad dove back to his right and deflected the ball away.
Robbie Rogers began to have an effect on the game as the Crew attacked incessantly down the left flank. In the 55th minute Schelotto rolled Rogers a ball behind the Dynamo defense. Rogers cut the ball across the top of the box and fired a shot towards Onstad, but the Houston 'keeper had no trouble corralling the effort.
Gino Padula nearly netted his first goal for the Black-and-Gold in the 61st minute, though it did not appear to be on purpose. The Crew defender took a free kick from near the right sideline, but his left-footed cross drifted too close to the Houston goal. Onstad took a swipe at the ball but missed, only to have the crossbar bail him out as the ball deflected away.
There was one final chance for the Dynamo and it brought out Hesmer's best. Houston captain Wade Barrett stepped into a blast from outside the box but Hesmer rose to the occasion with a dive at full stretch to his left, snaring the ball and securing the shutout for the Crew, their second on the year.
Nathan Linton is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.