COLUMBUS – Jason Garey gave the Crew the lead early in the second half and his replacement Steven Lenhart added an insurance goal as Columbus downed Colorado 3-1 on Saturday before 16,063 fans in Crew Stadium.
Garey scored the winner in the 53rd minute and Guillermo Barros Schelotto converted an early penalty kick for Columbus (12-5-4), who maintained a six-point lead over second-place New York in the Eastern Conference and moved to within three of Los Angeles for the overall lead.
Pablo Mastroeni scored in the first minute of first-half stoppage time to level the match briefly for Colorado (7-6-7), who are 0-5-1 in Columbus since 2004.
What started as an innocent goal kick by William Hesmer resulted in the Crew taking a permanent lead, as the long outlet was headed back toward the by Rapids defender Marvell Wynne.
But unfortunately for Wynne, it was put in no man’s land. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens could not grab the ball before it took one bounce and Garey pounced for his second goal of the season.
He nearly had an insurance tally in the 66th but he was ruled offside receiving a pass from Emmanuel Ekpo. Instead the final tally went to Lenhart, who headed home another header from Chad Marshall after a Schelotto free kick.
Mastroeni and Mehdi Ballouchy shredded the Crew defense for the Rapids’ only goal of the night. A nice buildup resulted in a give-and-go with Ballouchy deftly flicking an early ball to Mastroeni.
He glided to within 13 yards of goal then craftily beat Hesmer for his second goal of the season to silence the crowd and send the Rapids into the locker room on high note. It also punctuated a special night for Mastroeni, who tied Chris Henderson for the most starts in franchise history with 170. Mastroeni moved past Henderson into the minutes played lead last week.
Schelotto’s PK came in the sixth minute, just the Crew’s second goal in the opening 15 minutes this season. Adam Moffat took a turnover in the final third and found Emmanuel Ekpo near the arc, where Ekpo then slotted the ball to Gaven on the right side of the penalty area.
Although his first touch sent the ball too far ahead, Pickens nonetheless made contact with a sliding tackle and referee Edvin Jurisevic did not hesitate in awarding the penalty kick.
The goal was Schelotto’s sixth of the season.
A downside for the Crew is captain Frankie Hejduk earned a yellow card for a tackle on Omar Cummings in the 22nd minute and the right back will miss the next MLS match because of points accumulation.
The Crew go to Mexico on Tuesday to face Santos in group play of the CONCACAF Champions League before hosting FC Dallas on Aug. 28.
Colorado host Houston on Aug. 28.
CLB -- Guillermo Barros Schelotto 6 (penalty kick) 6
COL -- Pablo Mastroeni 2 (Mehdi Ballouchy 4) 46+
CLB -- Jason Garey 2 (unassisted) 53
CLB -- Steven Lenhart 5 (Chad Marshall 1, Guillermo Barros Schelotto 8) 80
Colorado Rapids -- Matt Pickens, Marvell Wynne, Julien Baudet, Scott Palguta, Drew Moor, Wells Thompson (Jamie Smith 69), Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Mehdi Ballouchy (Claudio Lopez 76), Omar Cummings (Quincy Amarikwa 82), Conor Casey.
Substitutes Not Used: Danny Earls, Kosuke Kimura, Ross LaBauex, Chris Sharpe.
Columbus Crew -- William Hesmer, Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Andy Iro, Shaun Francis, Eddie Gaven, Adam Moffat, Danny O'Rourke, Emmanuel Ekpo (Brian Carroll 74), Jason Garey (Steven Lenhart 77), Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Substitutes Not Used: Eric Brunner, Leandre Griffit, Duncan Oughton, Emilio Renteria, Andy Gruenebaum.
CLB -- Frankie Hejduk (caution; Reckless Foul) 22
CLB -- Adam Moffat (caution; Reckless Tackle) 75
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic; Referee's Assistants: Jason Cullum; Adam Garner; 4th Official: Hilario Grajeda
Time of Game: 1:52