It is almost impossible to believe but the Houston Dynamo haven’t lost on the road since August 6 when they traveled up to Montreal. Coincidentally, the Impact have yet to win at home since then. This is the universe we live in as the Dynamo shocked Real Salt Lake by escaping with their first victory at Rio Tinto Stadium, 1 – 0.
The goal came in the 36′ when RSL’s defense attempted to play the ball from out of the back. John Strertzer received the pass and was immediately tackled by Ricardo Clark who stripped him of the ball with ease. It fell to an awaiting Alex who dribbled toward the penalty spot. Just as he entered the box and was being closed down by the center backs, he toe-poked a shot past an on-rushing Nick Rimando, causing a chorus of boos to fall upon the field.
It’s Alex’s third goal in as many games. He now joins Andrew Wenger in a tie for the team’s Golden Boot with 5 goals, though the winger remains in the lead with one more assist.
Both before and after the goal, the Dynamo were on the defensive for the majority of the game as RSL dominated possession but had a difficult time breaking down the defense. Indeed half of their shots were from distance and went everywhere but on frame. The rest came from around the inside of the box but only one forced Joe Willis into a save, but hardly threatened to go past him.
In fact this is a game that RSL should have won as they had players wide open several times to put the ball into the net. Despite poor marking on set pieces in particular, the home team sent all of their shots high and/or wide of net. Everyone was having an off night. Some might say that without playmaker Javier Morales the team was without ideas but they created enough chances. Fifteen shots were taken but only one was on target.
While set pieces were poorly defended by the Dynamo, their open field play was pretty good for a team on their back heels most of the night. Clark and Collen Warner did a good job of keeping the middle of the field relatively safe for the defense, while Sheanon Williams was good defensively. In particular, despite making repeated attempts on his side of the field, RSL wasn’t able to crack open that defense from the wings.
Despite the accolades against a better opponent, the Dynamo should have lost this game by several goals and it’s a lesson they need to remember. The most disturbing thing about the victory is their pass-completion. A big reason why the team was constantly on their heels was their inability to string passes together consistently. A lot of this comes down to the Dynamo’s continued poor performances along the wings offensively as their passes were constantly intercepted. With Kyle Beckerman roaming the middle, it made sense to go around him, rather than through him. Their inability to widen the field made the job all too easy for RSL’s defense.
Mauro Manotas got another start and looked decent during the first half of play. On the goal he was wide open to Alex’s right and overall made some nice moves but only took two shots on the night, both from outside of the box. A lot of this is due to the heavily defensive stance the team chose with three defensive-minded midfielders in the lineup and the lack of chances created. For the remainder of the season, that is likely to be the norm and the young Colombian has to get ruthless with his chances.
When Will Bruin came in for the final ten minutes of the game, he had a chance to put the game away. A wonderfully weighted through ball saw him alone with veteran defender Jamison Olave. Bruin got around him and was met by Rimando. He attempted to send a shot between his legs but the goalkeeper wasn’t so easily beaten and made the save. Outside of the goal, it was Houston’s best chance on the night.
RSL will host Western Conference leaders FC Dallas next week, hoping to bounce back from their loss. Meanwhile the Dynamo begin a three game homestand with Portland Timbers, NYCFC and the Colorado Rapids making the trek. If they manage to take points off of any of those teams, they could severely impact each team’s placement in the playoffs. It’s unlikely that any of them can be knocked below the red line but pushing them down the table is a distinct possibility, turning a home playoff appearance in the first round, or even a bye, into a road game.