The Houston Dynamo fell to Real Salt Lake Saturday night in Utah in a match that they would have liked to win, considering that they had beaten the San Jose Earthquakes the week before.
There were multiple reasons for the disappointment. A Kofi Sarkodie red card, Javier Morales's long shot for the ages and offensive woes (that come with not having two regular starters) were among them. But the score could have been worse if not for Tyler Deric's save-of-the-week candidate stop on what would have been an own goal scored by Raùl Rodriguez.
At first, it just looks like an unlikely play for the Dynamo, but at a closer glance, you can tell that the play came about due to a defensive mistake by Houston.
Here's an in-depth look at how it happened:
We start with a play that occurred directly before, with a similar buildup but was dealt with cleanly by the Dynamo defense.
Javier Morales has the ball from the midfield coming toward the sideline with a Dynamo midfielder chasing him. Sarkodie (white arrow) originally stepped forward to defend him, but instead decided to help center-back David Horst defend Joao Plata (blue arrow), who was making a run.
You can see that Houston's defense looks organized and in line with each other, something that all backlines aim to do.
Morales (yellow arrow) passes to Plata, immediately forcing Sarkodie to sprint towards the receiver. Horst steps over to defend Plata.
The backline is still organized and is doing a good job defending the runs on the other end of the field. Devon Sandoval isn't in a dangerous position, but if he enters one, Rodriguez and Taylor Hunter are in perfect position to defend.
As soon as Plata gets possession of the ball, Horst steps up and delivers a very good standing tackle. Sarkodie tracks back and plays it to Deric, who clears the ball all the way back to midfield.
This is textbook defending, both tactically and technically. They are all positioned very nicely and defended the runs as well as possible. Horst did a great job of taking the ball away from a proven playmaker and scorer in Plata, and Sarkodie played the safe route of going back to Deric for a clear. Well done.
The only problem with the previous play was that Deric's clearance went directly to Justen Glad, the 18-year old homegrown center-back. Glad was able to deflect it toward left-back Abdoulie Mansally.
Mansally, once he turned around with the ball, could see that he had a large pocket of space to work with. This should be closed up quickly by the Dynamo.
Mansally used the space to send the ball in the direction of Morales, who had realized that the Gambia-international was making a run, made a one-touch pass back to him.
Mansally was able to burst by Brazilian winger Alex (chasing Mansally). This is bad defending, and possibly even a sign of fatigue late in the half. Sarkodie stepped up on Morales, opening up a spot for Mansally to race through.
With Mansally on the ball again, Horst is forced to step over and defend him, similar to the last play. But the difference is he's not in a good enough position to knock the ball away, so the best he can do is try and prevent a cross from coming in.
With Horst stepping up, Plata is left open, which, in turn, forced Rodriguez to defend him instead of Sandoval. Hunter is unable to defend the striker because he is occupied with Olmes García. Sarkodie's marking of Morales shook up the defense considerably. As you can now see, they are not in a line with each other whatsoever, and will now have to leave a player open in the middle.
Mansally continues to dribble upwards, and you can see Horst move forward to defend him. Rodriguez is marking Plata, and Sandoval is making his run towards the middle; he is absolutely WIDE open. No one is in position to defend him.
With Horst defending him one-on-one, Mansally is smart enough not to take him on. He instead sets up to cross it in, intelligently noticing that Sandoval is all alone. Meanwhile, Sarkodie is completely out of the play, and isn't even making an effort to get back in.
Mansally crosses it in, an in-swinger that should've landed around the penalty spot. Rodriguez is now in no man's land because Plata abandoned his run.
If Rodriguez hadn't stopped the cross from getting to Sandoval, it surely would have been a goal for Real Salt Lake unless Deric made a miraculous save.
Horst sticks his leg up in an attempt to knock it down, but misses and instead it heads toward Sandoval.
The Dynamo really got away with one here. Rodriguez did the right thing to stop the cross, but hit it the wrong way and directed it on goal. Deric should get the save-of-the-week for this reaction block, and Sandoval was probably frustrated, because he really deserved to score.
This would never would have happened if Alex hadn't let Mansally get by him. Morales set him up perfectly on the give-and-go.
A perfectly designed play by RSL almost ended up with a goal. Credit to the home team, but the Dynamo surely could have done a better job defending.
(Note: pictures are from the Real Salt Lake local channel and were taken from mlssoccer.com. Credit for these photos goes to them).