Looking to get back to their winning ways after having a quality result so abruptly taken from them last weekend, the Kansas City Wizards left Columbus with three points after defeating the Crew 1-0 Saturday evening at Crew Stadium in a match where the home team controlled the majority of the match.
Josh Wolff scored his first goal of the season to finish off a neat passing sequence and give the Wizards the victory, moving them back to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
As would be expected, Kansas City opened up the first half with a vengeance, looking to erase last Sunday's frustrating 3-2 loss in Dallas from its memory. The opening half hour was dominated by the Wizards, who outshot their hosts 4-1, though the Crew battled their way back in the half led by Crew midfielder Kyle Martino and forward Sebastian Rozental.
The Wizards had the game's best early chances. In the seventh minute, Wizards midfielder Jermaine Hue blasted a strong but predictable shot in the direction of Crew 'keeper Jon Busch, who dropped to his knees and easily smothered the ball.
Just a minute later Wolff slipped behind Crew defender Ritchie Kotschau and caught a lofted pass played over the Columbus back line, but his shot from inside the penalty area toward the near post was saved by Busch.
The Crew's first opportunity for goal didn't come until the 18th minute when midfielder Jose Retiz lofted a shot from 25 yards out, well over the goal and out of play. But the home side's first real threat came in the 20th minute and began with a free kick by defender Tim Ward.
He lofted a pass inside the goal area which was cleared by Kansas City, but only as far as a patient Martino just outside the penalty area. He corraled the clearance and sent a screaming shot just beyond the reach of 'keeper Bo Oshoniyi, but over the crossbar.
The Wizards missed another opportunity in the 23rd minute when Wolff broke free on the right side of the penalty area and lifted the ball over a charging Busch yet just wide left of the unguarded net.
The Crew failed to capitalize on the half's best opportunity when Martino rushed a wide-open shot from 10 yards out, sending the ball well over the crossbar.
Then the Wizards missed a glorious opportunity to score in first-half stoppage time when forward Eddie Johnson threatened to break the stalemate with a diving header no more than three feet right of the Crew goal post, which he put wide.
The hosts opened up the second half just as they left off in the first -- pressing hard with an explosive offense camped out inside the Wizards end. Columbus nearly hit home in the 54th minute with back-to-back shots from Jason Garey and Kei Kamara, but neither found the target.
The Wizards were the next to challenge the stalemate, on a corner kick in the 59th minute from Jose Burciaga. The corner kick, lofted beautifully inside the Crew six-yard box, was punched away at the last moment by Busch, who from his knees protected the draw.
Kamara returned the favor in the 68th minute. From the left side of the penalty area he hit a strong left-footed in the direction of Busch's near post. At the last minute, Wizards defender Shavar Thomas intervened, deflecting the shot into the near-side netting.
The Wizards then finally hit home in the 74th minute. Capitalizing on a quick transition play, Sasha Victorine sent a beautiful pass just out of the reach of the charging Busch to a streaking Wolff, who tapped the ball into the unguarded goal.
Kansas City nearly guaranteed themselves the victory in the 86th minute when Davy Arnaud launched a rocket toward the upper right corner of the Crew goal, only for it to be tipped away by an outstretched Busch. But it wasn't needed in the end, and the Wizards reclaimed top spot in the East with their fourth victory on the campaign.
Ryan D. Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.