If one could have thought of a ‘worst case scenario’ for the Houston Dynamo coming into Saturday’s game, they would have seen their prediction come to life in Utah’s capital city.
Under the lights on a gorgeous Saturday night, and in a crucial Western Conference bout between two storied teams fighting to stay alive in the hunt for the playoffs, the Houston Dynamo had just about everything go wrong for them in a 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, who now take the Dynamo’s position as the eighth place team in the conference.
From a red card to an aggravating night offensively, it was an overall frustrating night for Houston in the Rocky Mountains.
It took some time for the first goal scoring chance of the game to present itself. Real Salt Lake earned their second corner of the game in the 24th minute of action. Justen Glad rose up to head a ball toward goal, but his offering hit the crossbar, and Houston would escape with a goal kick.
Tyler Deric came through for the Houston defense in the 34th minute with a save off a shot from Olmes Garcia. It was a shot fired from inside the box, but Deric made the nice save to momentarily stop the RSL attack.
It was a momentary stop, as RSL would break through on the scoreboard with a very pretty goal just two minutes later. Javier Morales, who hung a hat trick on the Dynamo last year, scored on a beauty from 20 yards out. Morales struck the ball with the outside of his foot to send a curling shot off the inside of the post, and gave RSL their early lead at 1-0.
Houston’s defense nearly gift wrapped a second goal as halftime neared. Kofi Sarkodie and Tyler Deric came were the reason the Dynamo did not enter the half down two goals.
On an RSL corner, Deric showed quick awareness with a save, but not from a Royal player. An incoming cross on the corner deflected off of teammate Raul Rodriguez’s back toward goal, but Deric made the save to prevent complete disaster for Houston.
Sarkodie saved what would have been a sure goal near the brink of halftime. On the third RSL corner of the match, the ball bounced around a bit, but Jordan Allen poked a headed ball from Glad toward the goal line. Sarkodie cleared the line before the ball could cross entirely, and another RSL chance was disrupted, as Houston entered the half trailing 1-0.
Coming out of the break, the Dynamo needed a strong half in order to keep chasing the playoffs. Six minutes removed from halftime, the Dynamo became faced with another challenge: playing with 10 men. First half savior Sarkodie made a sliding challenge from behind RSL’s Garcia for the ball, but he came in too high and was issued a red card for his transgression.
The Houston attack was troubled all evening long. It took 62 minutes for Houston to get their first shot off, but RSL keeper Jeff Attinella rose to the occasion to squelch the first threat he faced. Ricardo Clark passed outside the box to Raul Rodriguez, who fired a first-touch shot at Attinella, who was forced to make his first save of the night, and ended Houston’s best chance.
Morales, known as the “Maestro,” would strike once again, but on the passing side of the ball. In the 65th minute, he would set up Joao Plata with his first MLS goal of the season. A very nice looking 1-2 combination of passing in the box from Morales to Plata would end with Plata placing his shot past a diving Deric to give RSL a 2-0 lead, and an already big hole to climb out of for Houston got even bigger.
The stat sheet did not look pretty either, and it showed the Houston offensive struggles. RSL outshot the Dynamo by a 14 to 4 margin, and the Dynamo only placed two shots on target all night, while RSL put seven on target. RSL basically played keep away from the Dynamo, owning 60.8 percent of the possession during the game.
Leonel Miranda had a chance to get Houston on the board in the 86th minute, as he redirected a chip from Rodriguez toward goal, but Attinella made his second save of the night, and sealed up his clean sheet.
The loss moves Houston into ninth place in the Western Conference, but they can still make a run at the playoffs with a strong second half of the season. Now, the Dynamo focus their attention on the US Open Cup. Tuesday, Houston travels to Kansas City to take on Sporting KC in the quarterfinals of the Open Cup.