There were no handshakes and high fives in Rio Tinto stadium for the Dynamo Saturday night. The boys in orange dropped a tough 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake, bringing their season record to 6-8-6.
Riding high off their 2-0 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes last Friday, Houston went into this matchup looking to pick up 3 enormous points against a struggling Real Salt Lake side. RSL was winless in their last 4 and sitting at 9th in the Western Conference, looking up at the 8th place Houston Dynamo. Both clubs had a chance to move ahead of Kansas City with a win.
With the Gold Cup knockout rounds in full swing, both clubs were missing impact players. Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, and Demar Phillips for RSL, and DaMarcus Beasley and Giles Barnes for the Dynamo were all off on international duty.
Making his first MLS start in Saturday's contest was Dynamo left back Taylor Hunter. Hunter was Houston's third round pick in the 2015 Superdraft, but has spent all of this season with the USL Colorado Springs Switchbacks.
Both teams started the match slowly, playing with pace but not aggression, and created few chances.
Justen Glad just missed a chance to break the game open for RSL in the 23rd, when he bounced a diving header off of the post on a corner kick. A few minutes later, Jorden Allen had a good look at goal from just outside the box, but missed left.
Following an injury timeout when Alex received treatment for a cut on the forehead, both teams really picked up the pace and pressed the attack, creating several quality chances. In the 36th minute, Javier Morales capitalized on one and netted his 4th goal of the season to put RSL up 1-0.
Houston narrowly averted disaster twice just before halftime. Tyler Deric made a fantastic save in the 45' minute to block a direct shot on goal, and just seconds later, Kofi Sarkodie cleared a ball that got past Deric, just inches away from goal.
Things just got worse for the Dynamo after halftime. In the 51st minute, Kofi Sarkodie made a reckless challenge on the ball, sliding underneath Javier Morales, and overzealous head referee Robert Zibiga, in only his second MLS match, showed him a straight red card.
Houston's window for a comeback slipped away in the 65th minute. Joel Plata, dribbling across the box through 4 Dynamo defenders, slapped his first goal of the season into the right lower corner of the net, increasing RSL's lead to 2-0, and effectively putting the game away.
The Dynamo have a busy week coming up. Next Saturday they will host Steven Gerrard and the LA Galaxy at BBVA Compass Stadium, but before then, they head to Sporting Park to take on Kansas City for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Quarterfinals, in what is expected to be Erick Torres' long-awaited Dynamo debut.
RSL: Javier Morales (36'), Joel Plata (65')
Houston (4-4-2): Tyler Deric, Kofi Sarkodie, David Horst, Raul Rodriguez, Taylor Hunter, Alexander Lopez (AJ Cochran 53'), Nathan Sturgis (Luis Garrido HT), Ricardo Clark, Alex (Leonel Miranda 45 + 1'), Brad Davis, Will Bruin
Real Salt Lake (4-5-1): Jeff Attinella, Tony Beltran, Aaron Maund, Justen Glad, Abdoulie Mansally, Jordan Allen (John Stertzer 84'), Luke Mulholland (Plata 88'), Olmes García (Luis Gil 72'), Javier Morales, Joao Plata, Devon Sandoval
Yellow: Luis Garrido (68')
Red: Kofi Sarkodie (51')