Two second-half penalty kicks by the short-handed Crew’s Andres Mendoza put Columbus ahead late, but Houston’s Calen Carr capped a bizarre game with a goal just minutes from time as the teams played to a 2-2 draw in Crew Stadium on Wednesday.
Carr, who entered in the 68th minute, arrived near the penalty spot and slotted home a cross from Geoff Cameron in the 86th minute to prevent either side from breaking their respective winless streaks.
The Crew went down to 10 men in the 11th minute when midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo was sent off for a high forearm to the face of ex-teammate Adam Moffat and trailed by a goal after Je-Vaughn Watson’s header in the 34th minute.
It was an athletic finish by a leaping Watson that gave the Dynamo the lead, as he soared over Chad Marshall near the left post to snap a header past goalkeeper William Hesmer, with the service provided from the right flank by fellow Jamaican Jermaine Taylor.
Watson’s first career MLS goal ended the Dynamo’s 213-minute scoreless streak and was their first against Columbus in 313 minutes, dating back to Sept. 13, 2009. Marshall, who had played every minute this season, left the game at halftime with an undisclosed injury.
The Crew, however, stayed compact and were able to get the equalizer 20 minutes into the second half. It came from the penalty spot when referee Chris Penso called a handball on Cam Weaver after Eric Gehrig sent a hopeful cross into the middle of the box. Mendoza made no mistake, sending Tally Hall the wrong way to make it 1-1 in the 64th minute.
The second penalty kick came 12 minutes later. Off a corner kick, the Crew’s Dilly Duka headed wide but was kicked in the stomach by Watson and had to leave the game. Penso again pointed to the spot, and Mendoza collected his 11th of the season to make it 2-1.
That set up Carr’s late heroics. The forward was on the end of a nice attacking move that saw Cameron sneak onto a slip-pass from Danny Cruz, then send a low cross toward the penalty spot. Carr was able to turn onto it and lash it into the roof of the net for what proved the game’s final goal.
Houston was without forwards Brian Ching (groin) and Carlo Costly (suspension), but defender Bobby Boswell returned from suspension and forward Will Bruin started in his first appearance since injuring his left knee July 30. Meanwhile, Brazilian midfielder Luiz Camargo made his first MLS start.
Columbus made three changes, as defender Shaun Francis and midfielder Danny O’Rourke, each limited to just one game this year because of injuries, started for Josh Gardner and Rich Balchan, respectively. Forward Tommy Heinemann replaced Emilio Renteria (concussion).
The Crew (11-10-7, 41 points) moved a point atop the Eastern Conference over Sporting Kansas City. Houston (8-9-12, 36) moved into a third-place tie with Philadelphia, although the Union have played two fewer matches. On Saturday, the Crew play at Philadelphia while Houston hosts San Jose.
Houston Dynamo (8-9-12) vs. Columbus Crew (11-9-8)
September 14, 2011 -- Crew Stadium, Columbus, OH
HOU -- Je-Vaughn Watson 1 (Jermaine Taylor 1, Adam Moffat 1) 34
CLB -- Andres Mendoza 10 (penalty kick) 64
CLB -- Andres Mendoza 11 (penalty kick) 76
HOU -- Calen Carr 1 (Geoff Cameron 5, Danny Cruz 2) 86
Houston Dynamo -- Tally Hall, Jermaine Taylor, Bobby Boswell, Geoff Cameron, Corey Ashe, Je-Vaughn Watson (Danny Cruz 77), Adam Moffat, Luiz Camargo (Colin Clark 68), Brad Davis, Cam Weaver, Will Bruin (Calen Carr 68).
Substitutes Not Used: Tyler Deric, Hunter Freeman, Jason Garey, Andre Hainault.
Columbus Crew -- William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall (Eric Gehrig 46), Julius James, Shaun Francis, Dilly Duka (Justin Meram 76), Danny O’Rourke, Emmanuel Ekpo, Robbie Rogers, Andres Mendoza (Dejan Rusmir 90), Tommy Heinemann.
Substitutes Not Used: Chris Konopka, Rich Balchan, Josh Gardner, Jeff Cunningham.
CLB -- Emmanuel Ekpo (ejection; Serious Foul Play) 11
HOU -- Jermaine Taylor (caution; Reckless Foul) 55
CLB -- Robbie Rogers (caution; Reckless Foul) 67
Referee: Chris Penso
Referee's Assistants: Steven Taylor; Mike Rottersman
4th Official: Hilario Grajeda
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial