COLUMBUS, Ohio — Playing with an extra man, as was the case last Saturday at Houston, is not uncommon for the Crew.
Having the lead, especially at halftime? Now that’s a big deal.
Columbus handled both situations (despite a few blips along the way) for a 2-0 victory that has them two points back from the top spot in the Eastern Conference after 15 games (5-4-6, 21 points).
When the Dynamo’s Lovel Palmer was sent off in the 52nd minute for his tackle on Bernardo Anor, it marked the sixth time this season that the Crew have gained a player advantage. The Crew have yet to see red.
Anor later got an insurance score en route to being named the MLS Player of the Week. It was the Crew’s fourth goal (including one via penalty kick) in 193 minutes of being up a man.
“Thankfully, we’ve been in this situation before,” forward Tommy Heinemann said. “I think we’ve learned from it. We were moving the ball side to side. There were times they were tired of chasing. It made it easier for us to progress and move the ball around.”
Even so, Houston came close to tying the score at 1-1 in the 60th minute, but William Hesmer made back-to-back saves.
The Crew can't be faulted for not knowing what to do when ahead because Andrés Mendoza’s goal off an Anor pass in the 41st minute gave them a halftime lead for the first time this year.
In all, Columbus have been in front for only 160 out of a possible 1,350 minutes (12 percent) and led for a combined eight minutes in the seven games before Houston.
“We are a team that never got desperate, both when we had the advantage and when we had an additional player on the field,” defender Sebastián Miranda said. “We were able to hold the same style of play, and we can credit the result we got [Saturday] to those attributes.”
Anor laughed when told he is now the leading scorer on the Crew roster this season from the University of South Florida after the rookie got his first MLS goal vs. the Dynamo.
Jeff Cunningham, who at 34 is 11 years older than Anor, is still seeking the elusive score that will tie the former USF star with Jaime Moreno for the all-time MLS lead at 133.
“I know he’s getting to get there,” Anor said. “I know he’s going to get a lot of goals.”
Mendoza, the often criticized Designated Player, may have won a few converts with his nice finish against Houston for his team-best fifth goal.
“We need to believe in him and see a little bit of trust from the players around him,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “He’s going in the right direction.”
Of six the six red cards issued to opponents, they have been split evenly between home and road. The Crew are 3-1-2 in those games.
Curse is broken?
The Crew’s win last Saturday was the first in nine tries (1-3-5) while wearing black in MLS play since the start of the 2009 season. All games have been on the road.