It’s a new season for Houston Dynamo FC who have made plenty of changes from the front office to on-field personnel as they hoped to rebound following a last placed Western Conference finish in 2021. They opened the year against Real Salt Lake who came to PNC Stadium and were met with a scoreless draw with neither side taking too many risks to get on the score sheet.
Within the first six minutes the Dynamo had three very good chances to open the scoring, but weren’t able to. First Griffin Dorsey found some room on the right side of the field in the attacking third and floated a cross back post towards Fafà Picault. Picault made a play for the ball, but fouled his defender leading to a free kick. Then Adam Lundkvist played a long ball to Corey Baird who tried to bring the ball down with his chest against his former team, but it was too heavy and went out of play. Not long after following a cleared corner kick, Matías Vera tried a shot from distance, but it fell to Dynamo newcomer Sebastián Ferreira, but Sebas wasn’t expecting it and his touch was heavy and it led to another corner kick.
Following the initial high octane offense and number of chances by the home side, the game settled down and Salt Lake began to gain confidence as they pressed higher up the field. This made it more difficult for the Dynamo to get the ball from their defenders to their midfield and forwards, but eventually they broke out and Memo Rodríguez was able to earn a free kick on the edge of RSL’s box. However, Adam Lundkvist’s free kick was blocked by the wall ending any danger the Dynamo had quickly built.
As the game continued after the 30th minute, neither team dominated the final third of the field. Salt Lake had increased their presence and possession in the midfield with the Dynamo turning it over frequently. Houston looked dangerous from the counter, but couldn’t get numbers up the field quick enough to truly threaten for a chance at opening the scoring.
The Dynamo got their closest chance to score in the half in the 44th minute on the break, Corey Baird squared a ball in the center of the field to Darwin Cerén who unleashed a curling through ball over the top to Picault. Picault was taken down by his defender, Erik Holt, on the edge of the box, but got up and continued to move in front of goal to get his shot off, but it was off the mark.
The two sides would go into halftime equal at 0-0. Houston started the game the stronger side, as you would expect in a home opener, and was unfortunate to not get on the board early. Real Salt Lake did well to play their way back into the game by controlling the midfield and pressing high which took the forwards and midfield out of the picture for the Dynamo who were mostly limited to chances on the counter attack.
The start to the second half saw more of the same from the first half. Dynamo Head Coach Paulo Nagamura made two halftime substitutes taking off Griffin Dorsey and Darwin Cerén for Zarek Valentin and Adalberto “Coco” Carrasquilla. Neither side seemed prepared to take too many risks opting for the safer route to avoid mistakes leading to goals for the opposition while minimizing one’s own opportunities.
Houston had another chance to find the back of the net in the 60th minute with defender Adam Lundkvist high up the pitch. He received the ball and weaved through some defenders and tried his luck from the top of the 18 yard box with a well hit shot. Unfortunately it was right at RSL goalkeeper Zac MacMath, but it was parried back to Lundkvist who attempted to head it passed the keeper only for it to be saved.
Real Salt Lake got their best chance so far in the 70th minute following a poor giveaway out of the back by Matías Vera. Vera attempted to play the ball through the middle, but it was picked out and went wide to Damir Kreilach. Kreilach took a few touches and smashed a low ball from distance forcing a diving save by Dynamo goalkeeper Steve Clark giving RSL a corner kick.
Substitute and scientist of goals Darwin Quintero rattled the crossbar in the 82nd. Zarek Valentin played a perfectly weighted ball to the feet of Quintero and Quintero took a touch and cut it back to let his defender fly passed him. He measured his shot with his left foot and it struck the upper far post keeping the game locked at 0-0.
As the game neared its end the two sides became increasingly physical, however, that never amounted to finding the back of the net with the game coming to a close as a scoreless draw. It wasn’t a poor outing by any means with Nagamura still trying to establish his brand as well as chemistry with the new players. It was a bit safe starting the game with two defending midfielders in a midfield three and while Salt Lake never truly looked threatening in the final third, they controlled much of the midfield. Houston was largely successful from the wings and struggled to build up play naturally, often relying on chances from the counter and from set pieces. There are lessons to be learned, but a point against a team that made it to the Conference Finals last year isn’t the worst way to open a new season.
Next up for the Dynamo is their first road trip of the year as they head up to Children’s Mercy Park to take on Sporting Kansas City on Saturday March 5th in an early afternoon match at 2:30 PM CT.
12’ HOU: Daniel Steres (yellow card)
17’ RSL: Pablo Ruíz (yellow card)
24’ RSL: Scott Caldwell (yellow card)
34’ HOU: Matías Vera (yellow card)
53’ HOU: Adalberto Carrasquilla (yellow card)
59’ RSL: Erik Holt (yellow card)
90’+5’ HOU: Fafà Picault (yellow card)
Houston Dynamo (4-3-3): Steve Clark; Adam Lundkvist, Daniel Steres, Tim Parker, Griffin Dorsey (HT Zarek Valentin); Memo Rodríguez (70’ Darwin Quintero), Darwin Cerén (HT Adalberto Carrasquilla), Matías Vera; Corey Baird (82’ Thor Úlfarsson), Sebastián Ferreira, Fafà Picault
Real Salt Lake (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath; Erik Holt, Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Andrew Brody (77’ Jonathan Menéndez); Scott Caldwell (90’+ 4’ Jasper Löeffelsend), Damir Kreilach (66’ Maikel Chang); Pablo Ruíz, Tate Schmitt, Justin Meram; Bobby Wood (65’ Sergio Córdova)