4:52 p.m. Welcome once again to a mostly empty but highly peppy Columbus Crew Stadium, where the Crew will try to shake off last weekend's loss at Chicago with another Sunday matinee versus the Houston Dynamo. Dynamo, MLS' defending champions, are depleted by national team call-ups to forwards Brian Ching and Dwayne DeRosario and midfielder Ricardo Clark. The Crew is missing some key pieces as well: national team defender Frankie Hejduk and suspended midfielder Danny O'Rourke. Meanwhile, this marks the return of former Crew forward Joseph Ngwenya, who was traded to Houston for Alejandro Moreno several weeks back.
4:52 p.m. Welcome once again to a mostly empty but highly peppy Columbus Crew Stadium, where the Crew will try to shake off last weekend’s loss at Chicago with another Sunday matinee versus the Houston Dynamo. Dynamo, MLS’ defending champions, are depleted by national team call-ups to forwards Brian Ching and Dwayne DeRosario and midfielder Ricardo Clark. The Crew is missing some key pieces as well: national team defender Frankie Hejduk and suspended midfielder Danny O’Rourke. Meanwhile, this marks the return of former Crew forward Joseph Ngwenya, who was traded to Houston for Alejandro Moreno several weeks back.
4:56 Your Crew starters: Andy Gruenebaum, Tim Ward, Marcos Gonzalez, Chad Marshall (good to have him back!), Rusty Pierce, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Ned Grabavoy, Duncan Oughton, Robbie Rogers, Alejandro Moreno, Andy Herron.
4:57 Houston’s lineup: Pat Onstad, Craig Waibel, Ryan Cochrane, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett, Brian Mullan, Kelly Gray, Richard Mulrooney, Brad Davis, Joseph Ngwenya, Chris Wondolowski.
5:06 Game on. The Crew gets started right away with a couple breaks down the right, leading to an extended offensive presence until Schelotto’s backheel fails to click with Grabavoy.
5:09 Herron gets straight stood up by Waibel, but the Crew regains possession.
5:10 Ward swoops in again to retain Houston’s errant long ball.
5:11 Moreno draws a free kick from his old teammates. Schelotto’s service from left finds only a punching Onstad, but again, the Crew recovers possession on Houston’s clearance.
5:12 Waibel pushes into the attack and roughs up Grabavoy on the flank. Houston’s back line is having success marking its men, but the rest of the team is having serious trouble getting in a groove.
5:14 A Crew cross is headed out for a corner kick from the left. A circus of events leads to a bouncing ball at the goalmouth with Oughton ready to pounce. Onstad punches it over for another corner, which is fruitless.
5:17 Questionable foul call sets up a Houston free kick from the left, but it’s summarily dismissed by the Crew wall.
5:18 Rogers pulls off a great intercept, but he and Schelotto don’t seem on the same page, so their give-and-go fizzles.
5:19 Moreno is getting no kid gloves from his old mates. Meanwhile, a Herron cross from the left skirts by two Crew attackers for a goal kick.
5:21 Wonderful midfield strip by Oughton, who then fights through a hackjob to make the outlet pass. For the most part, the ref’s really letting them play out there.
5:22 First dangerous chance from the Dynamo. Gray shoots low from long distance, but Hebrew Hammer (OK, I’m warming to the nickname) dives right and smothers it.
5:24 Crew free kick from the right finds Marshall’s head, which nearly deposits the ball in the side netting. He just misses, though.
5:26 More fancy-pants stuff fails the Crew, then Ngwenya is way offside.
5:27 Pierce’s lazy cross-field pass is intercepted. Ward has to hack the piss out of Houston’s attacker to save the day. Hammer pounds the ensuing free kick out of bounds.
5:28 Houston corner from the left. Ngwenya buries it with a gorgeous floating header that clangs the inside right post and bounces into the net, begging the question… (wait for it)… why couldn’t he do that when he was here? That's his third goal in three games. Assist from Davis, by the way.
5:30 Gonzalez shows for not the first time today why he is a pimp. Then a long-distance blast from the Crew sets up a corner from the right.
5:31 Aaaaand there’s a return header from Moreno (aka The Guy The Crew Got For Ngwenya) into the back of the net! How ironic is that? Assist from Schelotto, who made an amazing cut to lose his defender before serving up the cross.
5:32 Another dangerous free kick from Houston already. After the first kick gets called off and the wall gets moved back, we proceed. The wall comes through again.
5:35 Brilliant service to Gray’s run past the Crew defense on the right. He crosses with precision, and after a game of “You? Me?” with Gruenebaum, Marshall knocks it in for an own goal. Is this what a concussion does to you?
5:38 Another solid free kick chance for Columbus results in a Schelotto smoker that could have been a cross or shot but just misses on both counts.
5:38 Gonzalez! Standing up Ngwenya with authority!
5:39 Another free kick for Columbus just outside the box. This is crazy! (Sorry for so many exclamation points. It’s turning into overtime college football in here.)
5:41 Supposedly Schelotto picked up a yellow card in the 27th minute, but we all missed it in the excitement of the goals.
5:42 OMG it’s the Wild Bean Shootout!
5:43 Awesome hustle by Moreno, but Pierce kind of squanders it. He should really avoid offensive forays at all cost.
5:47 Interesting sequence here: Gonzalez stone cold strips Houston’s Wondolowski, who decides to NFL tackle Gonzalez. Since Pierce gets the ball, the ref says play on, but then Wondolowski gets up and steals it back from Pierce. Gotta admire the guy’s hustle.
5:48 Waibel is fully mounted on Moreno, so the Crew gets another free kick. Schelotto’s killer cross sails through with all the frustration of an unconsummated wedding night. During the post-foul scuffle, Ngwenya picks up a yellow for complaining.
5:50 Didn’t Chad Marshall used to win the fair play award? Huh.
5:51 Pierce actually sends in a half-decent service to the box, but a posted-up Schelotto can’t shake the hack on his back, and the rebound inches past Moreno’s head.
5:52 As we enter stoppage, Herron tries a Stern Turn from way out. Haven’t seen much from him since early in the half.
5:53 Halftime. That’s gotta be infuriating for the Crew, to have such domination go to waste.
6:09 The second half is underway. Some lingering thoughts from halftime:
•I saw a kid with a fake neck tattoo walking around, and it made me sad for all the people whose necks won’t wash off at home tonight.
•I also saw a dude wearing an old Matt Kmosko jersey. What ever happened to that guy?
•That OK Go song “Here It Goes Again” is not bad, but the Crewzers (and their hacksaw-wielding sound editor) most certainly are.
•Even though their color scheme completely changed when they moved, I can hardly help myself from typing “San Jose” every time Houston does something.
•The crowd has thankfully filled in quite a bit on this lovely early evening. It’s a good thing I’m watching the Cavs game on a patio tonight because I would much rather be out in that beautiful weather than in this box. (Ask me again next month how I feel about that.)
6:14 After an extended knee-clutching session from Moreno, the Crew’s first corner kick of the half goes for naught. On the ensuing attack, Schelotto tries a long bomb that sails over but earns the crowd’s approval.
6:16 Can’t help but wonder: It’s great to have such a solid replacement for defensive midfielder O’Rourke in veteran Oughton, but does the Kiwi have 90 minutes in him? If not, who replaces him? Does Danny Szetela get a go? Stefani Miglioranzi?
6:19 Moreno dribbles past four guys in the box and sends a blistering low ball across the goal mouth. Nobody gets on the end of it, though.
6:20 Gray’s shot is knocked wide left by a defender. Houston corner kick is cleared out by Moreno’s head (in a dead heat with Schelotto’s foot for today’s “most valuable appendage.”)
6:21 Houston brings on Corey Ashe for Davis.
6:24 It seems Robinson hurt himself while mugging Moreno (and inhibiting a deadly scoring chance). Patrick Ianni replaces the ailing defender.
6:26 Herron tries to make a meal of some contact in the box, landing a flop that would make Anderson Varejao proud.
6:30 Awesome sequence of passes leads to a wobbly Oughton cross that Moreno nearly puts home in the form of a bicycle kick. That would certainly be one way to one-up Ngwenya.
6:31 Also, if Oughton leaves, with Hejduk away and Ezra Hendrickson hurt, who wears the captain’s armband? Schelotto?
6:32 Ashe takes a dive over Tim Ward, which should have earned Ashe a yellow. Onstad just barely parries Herron’s shot wide. On the corner kick, Marshall gets another header, but it’s blocked back out immediately.
6:34 Tonight’s attendance: 12,661.
6:35 Now that we’re in what amounts to the fourth quarter, Schelotto is in full-on “Let’s go, guys!” mode. Also, Eddie Gaven comes on for Herron.
6:36 Rogers really should have done better with his burst into the box just now.
6:38 Wondolowski’s coming out; Stuart Holden’s coming in.
6:39 Corner for Houston. Thwarted. It’s too early to talk about “must-win” games, but the Crew really needs to make a statement here and net two for the win. Unfortunately, their attack this half has been much less fluid.
6:42 Nice steal from Gaven. Silly backheel from Rogers.
6:43 Marshall shows how to muscle an attacker without fouling.
6:44 Ten minutes left. Pierce out, Jason Garey in. Sigi’s pulling out the guns, sort of.
6:45 Crew’s flow in half one : Snoop Dogg :: Crew’s flow in half two : Kanye West.
6:49 Great combo from Schelotto and Gaven, resulting in a long-range shot from EG. It doesn’t have enough pace, though, so Onstad covers it.
6:50 After fussing about the Houston wall, Schelotto gives his free kick far too much distance.
6:52 Another ill-advised service from Schelotto. Or was it the rest of the team’s fault, since no one was there for it? I can’t tell anymore. Actually, I’m going to blame everyone else.
6:54 We begin three minutes of stoppage.
6:55 Garey and Gaven scramble frantically to regain playing time, and they actually pull off a decent cross that gets bobbled around for a while until Grabavoy (who needs to find his early season form) blasts a field goal and maybe injures himself in the process. I don’t think it’s happening today.
6:56 Houston pulls the old “dribble into the corner” trick. Why is the cheerleader smiling?
6:57 Go Cavs.