Real Salt Lake came into tonight’s match juggling a lot of expectations. The crowd expected a win being that last home match played on the sod that has been home turf since 2008. The organization expected to rebound after the loss in Carson, California. Even the opposition, who expected a win to get back on track after a five match winless streak.
It was a nervy start for both teams. DeMarcus Beasley was given the first yellow card of the night in the six minute with a scissor-kick tackle that brought Jordan Allen to the ground. The Claret-and-Cobalt howled for a red, that could have been given but, in only his second MLS match, Nima Saghafi went front pocket.
Minutes later, Giles Barnes caused the RSL defense some major anxiety when a proactive Nick Rimando came out of his box to retrieve a ball but misjudged the distance. Barnes was able to play it past Rimando and it was a foot race with Aaron Maund to the ball and an open net. During the race Barnes clipped Maund's heel just on the edge of the six-yard box as the ball rolled harmlessly out of bounds to the side of the goal.
In the 16th minute a little Burrito magic happened. Playing off the shoulder of a Houston central defender, Juan Martinez got on the end of a horrendous back-pass by ex-RSLer now Houston Dynamo midfielder Collen Warner. Martinez got into the box but was closed down by the rest of the Houston defense and let of a tight shot which was saved by goalkeeper Joe Willis. RSL was able to recycle the ball to Javier Morales who played a perfectly weighted chip pass to Burrito again who got another shot on target which was also saved by the Houston netminder.
The match’s pace sped up and became more chippy into midpoint of the first half. Some pushing and pulling from both sides resulted in little from the match perspective.
The Ricardo Clark was the second to receive a card after a high boot caught Sunny on the forehead.
Maund, who had played every minute so far for RSL in 2016, went down with a non-contact lower body injury in the 34th minute forcing Jeff Cassar to make his first substitution of the night, Jamison Olave.
With neither club able to find the back of the net in the first half, the Claret-and-Cobalt went to the locker-room with seven shots - two of which were on target - and five corners.
Real came out swinging in the second half. Within the first 30 seconds, Yura Movsisyan played a long-ball to the feet of Burrito who put a shot just wide. Tony Beltran also got a shot off during this spell but Willis came up big again for Houston.
Houston was unable to get the ball past the center-line for nearly seven minutes getting their first significant possession in the 52nd minute - which was taken away by the Claret-and-Cobalt in less than 20 second.
The Dynamo, however, were able to take the initiative minutes later. Clark let off a shot from the center of the 18 yard box that was parried by Rimando. Houston recycled the ball which found the feet of Leonel Miranda just outside of the box. The Argentine loanee let off a rocket that deflected off the right arm of Olave and past Rimando.
The clubs then traded shots, none of which were too significant before Movsisyan almost got on the end of another bad back-pass. The resulting corner kick lead to a tussle between Houston players and the two Claret-and-Cobalt central defenders. Justen Glad was able to win the ball and play a through ball to Allen who was sprinting towards the opposition's goal. The young homegrown player easily tallied his second career goal, leveling the score as the crowd roared to life in the 62nd minute.
Eight minutes later Movsisyan scored his second goal in 2016 off a perfectly weighted cross from Demar Phillips to give Real the go-ahead goal.
Houston did not give up, however. Clinical finisher Will Bruin was brought on for Warner as the Dynamo became increasing aggressive.
Rimando was forced to come up with two huge saves in the 80th minute. The veteran goalkeeper got a fingertip touch on a Houston shot that pinged off the woodwork. Rimando was then a victim of a ball-to-face save before the ball went out of play.
While Rimando was getting treatment Owen Coyle made a double substitution bringing on Cristian Maidana and "Cubo" Erick Torres. Cassar also went to his bench bringing in Luke Mulholland for Sunny.
Devon Sandoval, originally intended to take the place of Movsisyan, was later brought on for Martinez, after the Argentine signaled to Cassar he need a sub. Burrito hobbled off the field burning time in the waning minutes.
Stoppage time was a cagey affair for both sides as they traded blows but to no avail.
In a week that saw seven of ten matches played result in a draw, the RSL win was a welcome sight. The win moves the Claret-and-Cobalt into first place in the Western Conference tied with FC Dallas and next week's opponent's, the Colorado Rapids, as the club remains perfect at home to start the 2016 campaign.