Federico Higuaín came to the rescue with another penalty kick but the Columbus Crew's home woes continued with a 1-1 tie against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium.
Higuaín's penalty kick snapped a 294-minute home goalless streak the 69th minute, the Crew's first tally since another Higuaín penalty on April 27 vs. D.C. United.
The Dynamo (6-4-4) got a goal from Warren Creavalle on a 31st-minute counterattack, are 0-2-2 in the past four games and have not beaten the Crew in nine.
It was Higuaín's cheeky nutmeg to Matías Sánchez that started the sequence leading to the Crew's equalizer. Sánchez pushed the ball to Chad Barson, making his first MLS start, and the Homegrown rookie defender went down under Andrew Driver's challenge in the box.
Higuaín converted with a powerful shot, getting his fourth goal and third in four tries from the spot this season.
He then nearly put the Crew ahead in the 74th with a bending strike from 25 yards only to see his strik smack the right post. Justin Meram was alone in front of a wide-open goal, but scuffed the rebound over the bar.
Houston absorbed six quality chances by the Crew and just past the half hour mark struck back with a dash of speed and a clinical finish.
Dynamo right back Kofi Sarkodie sped past Justin Meram's slide tackle on a blazing run down the right before whipping a low cross to the center of the box. An unmarked Creavalle timed his run through the channel perfectly and one-timed the ball past goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum for his third goal of 2013.
The goal didn't have the momentum-changing effect the Dynamo hoped it would, though, as the Crew continued to find space and had three golden tries within four minutes near the end of the half.
First, Jairo Arrieta's volley from a seemingly impossible angle found itself rolling inside the far post, only for Tally Hall to scramble and push it away at the last moment.
Hall was again at the ready a few minutes later, pushing away Higuaín's blast and recovering in time to deny Arrieta's follow-up shot.
The Crew played for the first time since midfielder Eddie Gaven suffered a season-ending knee injury during Wednesday's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match.
In his absence, Arrieta returned from a two-game suspension and took his usual spot at forward, meaning Dominic Oduro dropped back into a wide midfield spot formerly occupied by Gaven.
The Dynamo had issues of their own with midfielders Brad Davis (United States) and Boniek Garcia (Honduras) away on international duty. Head coach Dominic Kinnear's side also missed the center back pairing of Bobby Boswell (suspension) and Jermaine Taylor (left shoulder injury).
Houston encountered more problems when former Crew defender Eric Brunner left in the 20th minute, with 2013 Supplemental Draft pick Anthony Arena coming on for his MLS debut. Brunner had cracked heads with the Crew's Dominic Oduro in the seventh minute.
Columbus are back in action almost immediately, traveling to face the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday. The Dynamo, however, face a long layoff, not playing again in MLS until they travel to Montreal on June 19. They do, however, face FC Dallas in the U.S. Open Cup on June 12.
Columbus Crew (4-4-5; 17 points) vs. Houston Dynamo (6-4-4; 22 points)
MLS regular season
June 1, 2013 – Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Houston: Warren Creavalle 3 (Kofi Sarkodie 4) 31
Columbus: Federico Higuaín 4 (penalty) 69
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Ricardo Clark, Eric Brunner (Anthony Arena 20), Corey Ashe; Warren Creavalle, Adam Moffat (Luiz Camargo 45), Giles Barnes (Mike Chabala 84); Andrew Driver, Will Bruin, Jason Johnson
Substitutes not used: Tyler Deric, Brian Ching, Alex Dixon, Brian Ownby
Columbus Crew: Andy Gruenebaum; Chad Barson, Eric Gehrig, Glauber, Tyson Wahl; Dominic Oduro (Aaron Shoenfeld 89), Matías Sánchez, Justin Meram (Ben Speas 74), Tony Tchani (Konrad Warzycha 89); Federico Higuaín, Jairo Arrieta
Substitutes not used: Matt Lampson; Danny O'Rourke, Kevan George, Ethan Finlay
HOU: Luiz Camargo (caution) 54
CLB: Justin Meram (caution) 66
HOU: Andrew Driver (caution) 78
Referee: Allen Chapman
Referee's Assistants: Jeff Muschik, Jeremy Hanson
4th Official: Mark Kadlecik