For the first time in nearly a month, Real Salt Lake finished a match with a clean sheet — their eighth of the season — with a 1-0 win over Houston Dynamo. It was the first 1-0 finish for Real Salt Lake since June and their third of the season.
Houston Dynamo never presented very serious problems for Real Salt Lake's defense, which remained unchanged from Wednesday's win over Portland. The partnership between Nat Borchers and Carlos Salcedo continued apace, with Salcedo not just stepping forward to cut out possession, but stepping into wide positions when RSL was in transition. Tony Beltran dominated the right flank well, with Olmes Garcia often tracking back to assist, and Chris Wingert was his usual dependable self on the left.
The sole goal of the match came through a first-half penalty, awarded when Olmes Garcia was undercut by Adam Moffat on a header in the box. The foul was perhaps a bit unfortunate for Moffat, who seemed to be a victim of bad timing with his defending, but it was surely a foul regardless.
Alvaro Saborio had no trouble finishing the ensuing penalty for his 9th goal of the season — from only 11 matches — and his 49th regular season goal for Real Salt Lake.
From there, Houston battled and fought, with their best opportunities coming after fouls in the 30-35 yard range, but never was Nick Rimando forced into an unusual save. His command of his area was certainly required, and his ability to extricate the danger from set plays — so often ignored — was on full display.
The match also saw the return of a 4-2-1-3 formation for Real Salt Lake, with Ned Grabavoy and Kyle Beckerman the deeper players in a double-pivot midfield with Javier Morales ahead. Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata occupied the wide forward positions and provided a positive outlay, but there were issues in building the fine connective play that marks the way Real Salt Lake intends to play.
But as Jason Kreis pointed out in his post-match press conference: "It's really important as you enter this stretch and you enter the playoffs ... you have to feel like you can win in multiple ways." If this match showed anything, it's that.