COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Crew didn't just make Brian Bliss a winner in his head-coaching debut, they may have rescued their playoff hopes. Justin Meram and rookie Ryan Finley both scored as Columbus defeated the Houston Dynamo 2-0 at Crew Stadium on Wednesday night.
Finley scored his first professional goal right out of halftime and Meram added an insurance tally with 16 minutes to go to snap a two-game losing streak for the Crew in their first match after Robert Warzycha was relieved of his coaching duties on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Dynamo dropped their third game in their last five and missed a chance to surge back into the playoff picture. Houston should've seized the advantage from the get-go, but Will Bruin missed three chances in the first 11 minutes to put the visitors on the board.
Just a minute in, the Dynamo forward leapt into a wide open breakaway past Columbus defender Eric Gehrig and cut to his right past Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson. Bruin had less time than he thought, however, and his light shot was saved off the line by a sliding Chad Barson to keep the game scoreless.
Bruin then missed two more one-on-one opportunities with Lampson in the next 10 minutes while abusing Gehrig, leaving Columbus fortunate to stay level.
But Columbus surged into the driver's seat immediately in the second half, putting Houston on their heels despite losing holding midfielder Wil Trapp to a knee injury. In the 47th minute, Bernardo Añor found Meram with a beautiful diagonal pass, and the third-year man unselfishly played a ball across the six-yard box for Finley to tuck away.
Moments later, the Crew squandered a chance to take a 2-0 lead when they were awarded a penalty kick for Bobby Boswell's tug of Dominic Oduro's shirt as the speedster surged into the box. But Finley put his ensuing spot kick directly at Dynamo 'keeper Tally Hall.
The Crew made up for the blown opportunity in the 74th minute, when Meram found himself with the ball on the outside of the box after Finley appeared to misplay a shot opportunity off Oduro's cross from the right wing. Meram faked to his right, and cut back to his unfavored left foot, and slid a low shot past Hall to the far post, giving the Crew a 2-0 lead that they did not relinquish.
With the win, Columbus improve to 9-13-5, their 32 points now five behind Houston and the New England Revolution, who are tied for the final playoff spot. The Crew next travel to face Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
Houston drop to 10-9-7, and head home for a crucial Eastern Conference clash with New York on Sunday.
Houston Dynamo (10-9-7; 37 points) at Columbus Crew (9-13-5; 32 points)
MLS regular season
September 4, 2013 – Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, OH
Columbus Crew: Ryan Finley 1 (Justin Meram 1, Bernardo Anor 1) 47
Columbus Crew: Justin Meram 1 (Ryan Finley 1, Dominic Oduro 2) 74
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Warren Creavalle, Corey Ashe (Mike Chabala 63); Jason Johnson (Brian Ownby 75), Adam Moffat, Brad Davis ©, Andrew Driver (Giles Barnes 53); Cam Weaver, Will Bruin
Unused substitutes: Erich Marscheider, Alexander López, Brian Ching, Anthony Arena
Columbus Crew: Matt Lampson; Chad Barson, Eric Gehrig, Chad Marshall ©, Tyson Wahl; Ethan Finlay (Konrad Warzycha 81), Wil Trapp (Tony Tchani 39), Bernardo Anor, Justin Meram; Ryan Finley (Jairo Arrieta 75), Dominic Oduro
Unused substitutes: Daniel Withrow, Agustín Viana, Ben Speas, Shawn Sloan
CLB: Tyson Wahl (caution) 77
HOU: Cam Weaver (caution) 88
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Assistant Referees: Frank Anderson, Fabio Tovar
4th Official: Chris Penso