By JOSE M. ROMERO
Andres Mendoza is on a pretty good tear.
The big striker scored goals in each half off mistakes to lead an impressive performance by the Columbus Crew in its 4-1 win over the 10-man Colorado Rapids Sunday night at Crew Stadium.
Mendoza's first goal came in the 18th minute. The Rapids were trying to move the ball out of the back and Kosuke Kimura's pass went wide of its intended teammate. Mendoza swooped between defenders and booted a left-foot shot past Matt Pickens to give Columbus a 2-1 lead.
Mendoza added his seventh goal of the season and sixth in the past six games in the 48th minute. A free kick by the Rapids was blocked and the ball sent long by Chad Marshall toward Mendoza near midfield. Kimura was playing too far up with no one behind him, and the ball took a good bounce to Mendoza on the run, who dribbled ahead of Kimura and blasted a left-foot shot into the net.
The Rapids played 61 minutes of the match with 10 players, after forward Conor Casey was issued a straight red for crashing violently into Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer in the first half. Casey slid into Hesmer and drove his right knee into the chest and chin of Hesmer, who needed trainer's attention for several moments before getting up and staying in the game.
Columbus (6-4-6) trailed 1-0 in the sixth minute after Jamie Smith's cross found Casey's head perfectly, and the knock was on target for a goal. But Eddie Gaven tied it in the 12th minute after the first big mistake of the match for the Rapids, dribbling and shooting in a goal with his right foot after a giveaway by Scott Palguta at midfield.
In the 54th minute, Palguta's shot off a cross from Pablo Mastroeni went high and wide. Three minutes later. Tommy Heinemann took advantage of a cross deflected off Colorado defender Tyrone Marshall that came out to Heinemann for an uncontested shot and goal, making it 4-1.
The Crew have won three of its last four matches, and spoiled the eve of the Rapids' visit to the White House Monday to meet with President Barack Obama in honor of Colorado's MLS Cup title last season. Columbus also spoiled the return of the Rapids' Brian Mullan to action after a 10-game suspension for his injury-causing tackle on Seattle's Steve Zakuani in April.
Columbus is tied for second place in the MLS Eastern Conference at 24 points with New York and has played one fewer game than the Red Bulls. The Rapids (5-5-7) are in fifth in the West with 22 points.