Dynamo-Crew Preview

It hasn’t taken very long for the Columbus Crew to go from
defensively sound to leaky.

Facing the Houston Dynamo could begin changing that ahead of a
daunting stretch.

The Crew look to regain sole possession of the Eastern
Conference lead as they try to extend their unbeaten streak against
the Dynamo to six matches Wednesday night.

Columbus (11-9-7) is trying to avoid losing three games in a row
for the first time since May 24-June 7, 2008. The Crew’s recent
skid includes Saturday’s 4-2 home loss to last-place Toronto after
falling 6-2 at Seattle on Aug. 27. Those 10 goals allowed equal the
total Columbus surrendered over its previous 13 games, going
8-4-1.

“It’s disappointing – it’s embarrassing, to tell you the truth,”
captain and defender Chad Marshall told the team’s official
website. “To come back here after a week off against the worst team
in the league and give up four goals – that’s not good enough.”

The Crew’s recent sluggish play has dropped them into a tie with
Kansas City for first in the East, but they have one game in hand
with seven remaining.

Re-establishing their defensive play will be key to regaining
sole possession of the conference lead ahead of a rough three-game
stretch – Columbus visits Philadelphia on Sunday before hosting
league-best Los Angeles a week later. It ends that stretch at
Kansas City on Sept. 28 in a match that could have major
implications on who is the East’s top seed in the playoffs.

“Ultimately, this team has built its success through defending
and being hard to play against,” goalkeeper William Hesmer said.
“Lately, we have been outworked and we have to show that passion
again.”

The Crew have an opportunity to get untracked against Houston
(8-9-11), which is 0-6-8 on the road. Columbus is 3-0-2 versus the
Dynamo since a 2-0 road loss Aug. 2, 2008, and the club has won the
last two at Crew Stadium by a combined 5-0 score – including 2-0 on
June 18.

Andres Mendoza had a goal in that meeting, and leads Columbus
with nine after netting two in three games.

He’s expected to be without fellow forward Edgar Renteria, who
suffered a concussion in the second half Saturday when he collided
with Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Renteria, who has six goals, is one of three players expected to
be sidelined, joining midfielders Eddie Gaven and Bernardo Anor,
whose lone tally of the season came against the Dynamo.

Gaven has missed four games with a right leg contusion.

Houston holds one of the four wild-card positions, but its road
woes continued on this three-game trip with a 3-0 defeat at Kansas
City on Saturday following a 1-0 loss to expansion Vancouver on
Aug. 27.

The Dynamo will be without forward Carlo Costly after he was
issued a red card Saturday, while Brian Ching has an unspecified
injury that forced him to exit at halftime.

Ching leads Houston with five goals, but has one in eight road
games and none in the last five.