Coming into the night, Real Salt Lake probably thought a visit from the Western Conference cellar-dwelling Houston Dynamo would be a grant chance to keep the pressure on FC Dallas in the race for the Supporters' Shield. The Royals entered the night 18 points ahead of their visitors and yet to lose a home match in league play in 2016. However, strange things have a habit of happening in MLS.
They happened again on Saturday night as RSL were punished for not taking a sequence of early chances when Alex capitalized on a defensive error late in the first half.
Disappointment for RSL
RSL couldn't find a response, and saw any remaining hopes of winning the Shield evaporate. Though they host FC Dallas next weekend, the Toros are eight points ahead of the Royals, and both sides have just four games remaining this season.
Late season consolation for Houston
Meanwhile, Saturday evening's match served as little more than a face-saving operation for the Dynamo. This has been a season to forget; though they began MLS play looking like one of the league's most enterprising attacking sides back in March, the pieces have never fit together for them. They're 10 points out of a playoff place and five points behind the San Jose Earthquakes in ninth with just six games to play--their remaining fixtures are now about playing for pride.
Real Salt Lake will look to regroup before being visited by high-flying FC Dallas next Saturday, who are flush off winning the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Meanwhile, Houston will head back home to do battle with the Portland Timbers next Saturday.
32' Over the bar! RSL with a set piece which Luke Mulholland swings in right onto the head of Jamison Olave. He has a free header but sends the ball a whisker over the bar. Nearly the opener.
34' Just high! Another dangerous set piece for the hosts, this one from about 25 yards out. Joao Plata steps up to take, and nearly finds the back of the net. He got his strike up over the wall, but it wouldn't dip down enough to find twine.
36' GOAL! Oh that's a calamitous error from John Stertzer! Olave gave him a difficult ball to deal with in his own defensive third, and Ricardo Clark proceeded to pick his pocket. The ball worked its way to Alex, who sprinted into the penalty area and toe-poked the ball past Nick Rimando. 1-0 Dynamo.
49' Off the post! Mauro Manotas nearly doubled Houston's lead after a terrific solo effort. He picked up the ball 45 yards out from goal before taking on Olave. He managed to beat the Colombian, and created space for a shot which caromed back off the post. So close to the second.
64' Just wide! Some good work from Kyle Beckerman created space for a Mulholland strike from distance, but it sailed harmlessly wide. Good pressure from RSL.
68' Over the bar! Juan Manuel Martinez should have equalized! Another terrific set piece delivery from Mulholland gave him a free header less than six yards out, but he could not find the back of the net. The chance of the match for the hosts.
86' SAVE! Jamison Olave's tough night continues, as this time he's beaten all ends up by Will Bruin. The Claret and Cobalt had committed numbers forward, and Bruin had only Olave to beat before being in on goal. He managed to turn him inside out, but could find no way past Rimando.