[MLS SPOTLIGHT]Up a man from the 11th minute and holding a 1-0 halftime lead at Crew Stadium Wednesday night, Houston held a great opportunity to post its first away victory of the season. Instead, the Dynamo conceded penalty kicks 12 minutes apart and needed a late equalizer from Calen Carr to leave Columbus with a 2-2 tie that deprived it a chance to take sole possession of third place and an automatic playoff spot.
Houston (8-9-12) is tied for third with Philadelphia, five points behind Columbus (11-10-7), which with the tie took a one-point lead atop the Eastern Conference. The Dynamo is only two points ahead of D.C. United (8-7-10), which has played four fewer games than Houston.
Houston coach Dominic Kinnear gave recent signing Luiz Camargo his first MLS start in central midfield, and moved Geoff Cameron to centerback alongside Bobby Boswell. Crew defender Chad Marshall, who has been plagued by post-concussion problems during his career, came off at halftime with an undisclosed injury. He’d been involved in several tough battle and was replaced by Eric Gehrig.
Andres Mendoza converted penalty kicks in the 64th and 76th minutes to wipe out a 1-0 lead taken by Houston whenJe-Vaughn Watson headed home a cross fromJermaine Taylor. The early dismissal ofEmmanuel Ekpo, who saw the red card after smacking former teammate Adam Moffatin the face, enabled Houston to forge an edge in possession it couldn’t translate into a follow-up goal. Watson’s opener in the 34th minute ended a 313-minute Dynamo scoreless streak – dating back two years and a day, to Sept. 13, 2009 – against Columbus.
A handball call against Cam Weaver on a cross by Gehrig prompted referee Chris Pensoto whistle the first penalty kick, which Mendoza cleanly belted past keeper Tally Hall. Twelve minutes later, Watson caught Dilly Duka in the stomach with a wild kick and Mendoza connected again for his 11th goal.
Carr, who had replaced rookie Will Bruin with the score, 1-1, ran onto a ball cut back from the end line by Geoff Cameron in the 86th minute and drilled it into the top corner. Houston’s away record is 0-6-9 with two more road games remaining.
Both teams are back in action on Saturday. Houston hosts San Jose, and Columbus plays a crucial match at Philadelphia.