COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus Crew are on fire.
Another offensive explosion gave them a second straight home rout, this time a 3-0 pummeling of the Houston Dynamo thanks to goals from Justin Meram, Adam Bedell and Aaron Schoenfeld on Saturday night at Crew Stadium. The Crew now have seven goals in their last two games following last weekend’s 4-1 win over the LA Galaxy.
The win cements the Crew (8-8-9) as playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference, moving them into fourth place with 30 points from 24 games. Houston (7-13-4), meanwhile, continue to miss the spark that they need for their classic late-season playoff run and remain lodged under the red line in the East with 25 points from 23 games.
The match was the Crew's first without Costa Rican international defender Giancarlo Gonzalez, who at game time was on his way to Italy to complete a transfer to Serie A club Palermo during the game.
Houston were without a big piece of their own after Designated Player DaMarcus Beasley was held out of the match as a precaution after he tweaked a hamstring in training.
Proceedings started slow as the squads acclimated to each other and the sticky humidity.
And it was the Dynamo who nearly struck first.
In a rare mistake, Wil Trapp gave the ball away to Houston's Will Bruin, leaving the forward with a clear break on goal in the 19th minute. But goalkeeper Steve Clark swept in at the last minute and saved the shot with his face, notching another of his patented dramatic stops.
In the 23rd minute, Columbus seemed destined to take an early lead but couldn't capitalize.
Winger Ethan Finlay found Bedell on the back post with a cross, and the forward headed it directly into the path of Federico Higuain. The Columbus Designated Player tried an awkward header inches away from goal, but he somehow couldn't find the net.
Meram made up for Higuain's mistake moments later.
The speedy winger – in the midst of one of his trademark hot streaks with three goals in his last three games – benefitted from a poor touch from Houston defender David Horst. Meram gathered the ball near the top of the penalty box, took a few shifty touches and fired a left footed shot past Tally Hall.
Meram made his presence known again in the 59th minute, this time with an assist.
After cleaning up a long corner, Meram turned and swung in a perfectly placed cross to the head of Bedell, who outmuscled Horst and glanced a header past a helpless Hall and into the far corner.
Columbus added a security goal in the 64th minute, when Waylon Francis found streaking substitute Schoenfeld with a perfect cross to ice the second three-goal margin win for the Crew in two weeks.
Houston are back in action Friday when they travel to face Sporting Kansas City. Columbus also hit the road and will next face Montreal on Saturday.