The Crew is still winless, but no longer is it goalless, and while tying New England, 2-2, Thursday night at Crew Stadium it exposed a few weak spots in a depleted Revs' lineup.
James Riley, stepping in for the injured Michael Parkhurst in central defense, let a Frankie Hejduk cross skip under his foot for substitute Kei Kamara to slam home the tying goal in the 86th minute.
Both Smith and Riley have played well so far this season but it is an indication of a heightened intensity already evident in matches played around the league that gaffes are far less likely to go unpunished.
Young Brazilian Ricardo Virtuoso started on the left side for Columbus and his feints and flicks befuddled the Revs' defense on a few occasions and Steve Ralston had to drop far back to help contain him. Virtuoso had been slow to get into shape during preseason because of injuries but lasted 62 minutes before being replaced by Brad Evans, who set up Hejduk's run and cross with a diagonal ball out of midfield.
The Revs, too, exploited their opponent's soft spots. Taylor Twellman scored New England's second goal by spinning away from a Danny O'Rourke challenge at the midfield line and setting sail for goal through a vast chasm eerily unoccupied. No defender could cover for O'Rourke's missed tackle and Twellman ran freely at the backpedaling back line before nailing a blast into the bottom corner from 25 yards out.
Ned Grabavoy opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a low shot that caromed into the net off Shalrie Joseph, yet two minutes later, rookie Adam Cristman pushed a deflected ball into the path of Andy Dorman as a quartet of Crew defenders watched. Dorman coolly rolled the ball past Andy Gruenebaum to make it 1-1.
Last January, Columbus coach Sigi Schmid traded to get striker Andy Herron from the Fire, hoping his power and speed would add scoring punch. Herron threatened a couple of times, but drilled one shot wide and keeper Matt Reis repelled another.
Herron's volatile temper flared again in this game; while jostling in the penalty area as a free kick was about to be taken, he threw his right elbow into Jay Heaps' face, perhaps in retaliation for Heaps' foul that resulted in the free kick and a yellow card. Salazar, who otherwise officiated crisply, missed this incident but it will be reviewed the MLS Disciplinary Committee on Friday and a lengthy suspension is likely.
April 19 in Columbus
Columbus 2 New England 2.
Goals: Grabavoy (Virtuoso, Ngwenya) 8, Kamara (Hejduk, Evans) 86; Dorman (Cristman) 10, Twellman 38.
Columbus - Gruenebaum, Hejduk, Gonzalez, Hendrickson, Pierce, Ngwenya (Kamara, 69), Grabavoy, O'Rourke, Gaven, Herron, Virtuoso (Evans, 62).
New England - Reis, Heaps, Riley, John, Ralston, Dorman, Joseph, Larentowicz, Smith (Thompson, 60), Twellman, Cristman (Noonan, 66).
Yellow Cards: Columbus - Grabavoy 49, Hejduk 82, Pierce 94+; New England - Heaps 42, Larentowicz 76.
Referee: Ricardo Salazar.