SANDY, UT - MAY 14: Goal keeper Tally Hall #1 of the Houston Dynamo throws thew ball down field during a game against Real Salt Lake during the first half of an MLS soccer game May 14, 2011 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
Going in to the match, I'd said many times that a draw on the road at Real Salt Lake would be a good result. While the Dynamo got just that result, there's no doubt they could have gotten the victory. Still, it's a result I'm happy with and a performance that shows that the last two results for the Dynamo were more of a bump in the road rather than a sign of things to come.
It was a dull, careful and defensive first half for the Dynamo. They didn't just sit back and absorb pressure, but Kinnear definitely had them focused on keeping their shape and not allowing Real Salt Lake to get in to an offensive flow. Houston was good with possession and created a couple good chances, but more importantly they disrupted any type of offense RSL was trying to create.
There was a bit of a scary moment midway through the half when Robbie Russell went through Will Bruin from behind. It was an ugly tackle that earned the Salt Lake player a yellow card but fortunately did not injure the Dynamo rookie. Despite that, it's obvious that MLS players are still not grasping the fact that these reckless and sloppy challenges are a bad idea and have been hurting their fellow competitors. Apparently no amount of fine or suspension can deter bad decision making in the heat of the moment.
The Dynamo defense, especially the central pairing of Bobby Boswell and Andre Hainault (man of the match for me, no question) were excellent in the first half, keeping the dangerous RSL offense under control and really not allowing any real dangerous chances. By the end of the half, both teams had gave and received some chippy and definitely unnecessary extra bumps and pushes. It was not the beautiful game in the first 45 minutes with 17 combined fouls and only one shot on goal. Stats don't lie.
The second half opened with more offensive creativity in the first three minutes than we saw the entire first 45. After the careful and plodding tempo in the first half, the game opened up as the teams began to go back and forth on the attack. Not sure what happened at halftime, but it looked like two different teams.
Despite being have a lot more flow and being 110% more entertaining, the goals would not come for either team. To be honest, I don't mind. A draw on the road against Real Salt Lake is nothing to be upset about, even though the Dynamo really should have gotten the full points. They had the better chances but their finishing was very poor. So a little bad to go with the good, but not the end of the world.
You have to be pleased as a Dynamo fan about the vastly improved play from the team. After the struggles against Colorado and Toronto, Houston looked more like the team we saw developing at the start of the season. Returning to the lineup that had been so successful likely had a great deal to do with that as Will Bruin had a couple really stellar touches and run that he couldn't quite finish.
Even better? No mental lapses or insanely frustrating mistakes. We've seen far too many of those over the past year in Houston and tonight was a well played 90 minutes of soccer, even if the finishing wasn't good enough.
As I mentioned before, Andre Hainault was the man of the match for Houston, proving without a doubt why Dominic Kinnear wants him on the field, even if it means playing him at an outside back position. The Ginger Defender made several huge tackles that likely saved goals, most of them precision maneuvers inside the box that never even threatened to draw a penalty decision from the referee.