With two teams fighting to improve their position in the standings, it was the Houston Dynamo that saw their stock rise in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a 3-1 win over the Columbus Crew at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Houston entered the night seven points ahead of the Crew, but outside the playoff positions due to a tiebreaker. First-half goals from Brad Davis and Will Bruin extended that gap and improved the Dynamo's position.
Davis got Houston on the board with a 10th minute penalty-kick conversion, but it was Giles Barnes who did the lion’s share of the work. The Englishman broke through the Crew center backs and charged into the penalty box, causing Chad Marshall to bring him down from behind. Even though Columbus goalkeeper Matt Lampson guessed right, Davis’ well-placed shot flashed out of his reach for a 1-0 lead.
The Crew responded with energy and created several chances, but were unable to convert. That would prove costly in the 31st minute when Will Bruin broke an unwanted streak. After Boniek Garcia fleeced Agustin Viana at midfield, he found Bruin making a run in the box. After taking two touches, the 6-foot-2 forward struck from the top of the box for his first goal since May 8.
Houston gave the visitors life in the 75th minute when Kofi Sarkodie scored an own goal to make it 2-1. Second-half sub Kevan George's mis-hit shot found Ryan Finley, who stood Sarkodie up and hit it off the Dynamo right back for what looked like his first MLS tally. However, the official ruling was an own goal.
Cam Weaver sealed the victory in the 85th minute, scoring in his second game in a row off a layoff from Bruin just outside the box. The outside-of the-foot rocket was the nail in the coffin for the Crew in a hard-fought game that could easily have featured several more goals.
The scoreline was a tough blow to the Crew, as they tested Houston with regularity, prompted by their Argentine playmaker Federico Higuain.
After Davis’ PK, Higuain sent Jairo Arrieta clear with a long pass through the middle of a vacant Dynamo back line. The Costa Rican pushed towards goal but his shot was repelled by a kick save from a charging Tally Hall, then cleared by Bobby Boswell in the 12th minute.
Houston nearly added a second before Bruin’s goal but Lampson made an acrobatic save that could contend for MLS Save of the Week honors, contorting his body to glove a Ricardo Clark header from just a few feet away.
Moments after Bruin's strike, Higuain cut in on his right and laced a shot off the crossbar five minutes before the half.
The Crew took more chances and went for broke in the second half. In the 61st minute Higuain hit another perfectly weighted through-ball, this time to Finley, but the youngster took far too much time and allowed the Dynamo defense to retreat and cover the chance.
Minutes after Sarkodie’s own goal, Columbus nearly evened the score. Justin Meram set a streaking Bernardo Anor up from across the goal with a free look. The midfielder’s aim was off and the miss proved to be the Crew’s last gasp on the night.
The Dynamo improve to 33 points, moving up in the table past the New England Revolution, who play Toronto FC Sunday night. Houston will travel to Sandy, Utah to take on Real Salt Lake next Saturday while the Crew host the New York Red Bulls.
Houston Dynamo (9-6-6; 33 points) vs. Columbus Crew (6-11-5; 23 points)
MLS regular season
August 3, 2013 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
Houston: Brad Davis 4 (penalty) 10
Houston: Will Bruin 5 (Boniek Garcia 3)
Columbus: Kofi Sarkodie (own goal) 75
Houston: Cam Weaver 2 (Will Bruin 5, Boniek Garcia 4) 85
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Boniek García, Ricardo Clark (Warren Creavalle 51), Adam Moffat, Brad Davis (Jason Johnson 78); Will Bruin, Giles Barnes (Cam Weaver 81)
Substitutes not used: Tyler Deric, Eric Brunner, Brian Ching, Omar Cummings
Columbus Crew: Matt Lampson; Josh Williams, Danny O’Rourke, Chad Marshall, Agustin Viana (Justin Meram 71); Will Trapp, Matías Sánchez (Kevan George 46), Bernardo Anor; Federico Higuaín, Jairo Arrieta (Ryan Finley 46)
Substitutes not used: Daniel Withrow, Chad Barson, Ethan Finlay, Ben Speas
HOU: Boniek García (caution) 27
CLB: Agustin Viana (caution) 41
CLB: Federico Higuaín (caution) 61
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee’s Assistants: Brian Poeschel, Greg Barkey
4th Official: Alejandro Mariscal