Houston’s Robertson Stadium is not Real Salt Lake defender Jámison Olave’s favorite place to ply his trade. Last year, Real Salt Lake played there twice with Olave earning ejections in both matches.
This time around, it appeared that Real Salt Lake had this match under control. With a 1-0 lead, they certainly weren’t ready to start celebrating, but defensively they were able to snuff out any opportunities the Dynamo tried to create.
The team came out of the locker rooms feeling good about their chances, according to a somewhat somber Kyle Beckerman.
“We felt great,” he told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We felt we could step it up, get the second goal, and finish it off.”
In addition, Houston had lost its star striker, Brian Ching, early in the match after going shoulder-to-shoulder against defender Nat Borchers as the ball was headed past the end line. This appeared to bode well for RSL, as Ching has been a thorn in the club’s side over the last couple of seasons.
However, Olave played a key role in two consecutive plays that ended in fouls inside the box. Both plays seemed to be somewhat routine, and only moderately dangerous. Both led to successful Brad Davis penalty kicks just three minutes apart, vaulting Houston from a one-goal deficit to a one-goal lead.
Beckerman wasn’t anxious to talk about these plays, or these calls. When asked if he felt these were penalties, he kept his response short.
“Not at all,” he said. He also felt Olave has just seen “bad luck” against Houston.
Javier Morales had opened the scoring with another nice goal but did not have the sort of dominance in the midfield that he enjoyed in San Jose last week. The whole of the midfield for Real Salt Lake started the game off well, but the recently reconfigured Houston midfield leveled the playing ground midway through the opening half. And in the second half, they forced the issue and put tremendous pressure on their opponent.
The two penalty kicks took the wind out of the sails of Real Salt Lake who were hoping to take advantage of a Houston team early in the season that is trying to back fill a couple of key midfield positions. The loss isn’t the end of the world, but has Real Salt Lake scratching their heads trying to figure out what it’s going to take to get their first victory in Houston.
One bright spot for Real Salt Lake was the first start for their biggest offseason acquisition, Álvaro Saborío. While he had some errant passes trying to connect with his new teammates, Beckerman felt his first start was a good one.
“He battled hard, held the ball up well and connected with the midfield,” the captain said.
For the RSL faithful, losing the lead and the momentum was devastating, but Beckerman tried his best to downplay any chance of a lingering disappointment.
“We've just got to move on,” he said. “We are already thinking about Seattle for our home opener.”