RSL forwards Yura Movsisyan and Robbie Findley ran rampant through the Crew for most of the 90 minutes, and despite spirited work by Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the Columbus attack seldom replied.
Findley bagged a hat trick and midfielder Kyle Beckerman drilled home the fourth goal from a corner kick to thoroughly embarrass Columbus, which after equalizing midway through the second half just couldn't keep up with the pace or hold onto the ball.
Robbie Findley hat trick VIDEO
Keeper Will Hesmer contributed to the Crew's demise, presenting Findley with his first two goals by sending the ball right to him not once but twice, via a bobbled free kick and horrendous attempted clearance. In between, Jason Garey scored a garbage goal of his own when Clint Mathis scuffed a bouncing ball, yet Findley struck again in the 62nd minute by banging in a Movsisyan cross, and Beckerman sealed up the victory five minutes later when his header from a Mathis corner kick whistled past Hesmer.
Columbus coach Robert Warzycha rested forward Alejandro Moreno and defender Frankie Hejduk, who returned to the team Thursday following international duty for Venezuela and the USA, respectively. Garey, starting in place of Moreno, threatened on a few other occasions but didn't seriously test RSL goalie Nick Rimando, and right back Jed Zayner struggled along with most of his teammates, except for Schelotto and defender Chad Marshall.
RSL outshot the Crew, 17-8, as Javier Morales and Clint Mathis, buttressed by Beckerman and Will Johnson, set the tempo in midfield and played some crisp, clever combinations through their flummoxed opponents.
Poor efforts by midfielders Eddie Gaven, Emmanuel Ekpo and Robbie Rogers, a rough game for defender Danny O'Rourke, and Hesmer's blunders added up to a miserable night for the visitor.
Columbus (0-1-2) has just two days of rest before it takes on Chivas USA at Home Depot Center Sunday, and not even the returns of Moreno and Hejduk and a form reversal by Hesmer may be enough to post its first win of 2009.
RSL (1-1-0) has nine days to savor a win in its home opener until D.C. United comes calling April 11.