Match Preview: Real Salt Lake at Houston

The basics

Real Salt Lake (1-0-0) v. Houston Dynamo (0-0-1)

When: 9 p.m. ET, Thurs., April 1

All-Time Record:  Houston leads series 6-2-4. Houston is 5-0-1 against Real Salt Lake at Robertson Stadium.



Last meeting:

September 19, 2009—Robertson Stadium hosted a volatile match between two teams competing for seeding in the playoffs. Historically, Houston opened the game with two goals in five minutes, through Brian Ching and Geoff Cameron.

RSL battled back before the halftime break, as Kyle Beckerman finished a classy interplay in the 27th minute. The comeback stumbled in the 32nd minute, though, when Real’s Jámison Olave was shown a straight red for a hard foul on Brad Davis.

Despite being down to ten men, Salt Lake continued pressing for the equalizer, and it came in the 61st minute, through a crafty move by Yura Movsisyan.

However, the Dynamo had the final say. Davis struck a gorgeous long-range blast in the 81st minute that left Nick Rimando flailing at air and ripped the side netting. Before it was all over, the bad blood spilled over again as Ching was ejected for an off-the-ball incident.

What's at stake?

Salt Lake and Houston both have hopes of contending for the Western Conference title, and an early-season result would send a statement about the chances of making their hopes a reality.

RSL come to town with the collective bulls-eye of the league on their MLS Cup-carrying backs. They started the season off well, demolishing the San Jose Earthquakes on the road. The star was Argentine midfielder Javier Morales, who scored two lovely goals and set up a third in the 3-0 win. Getting a second away result would continue their goal of improving on their poor 2009 road record.

Houston opened the season with a road draw against in-state rivals FC Dallas. A win against the reigning champs would send an early message that the Dynamo are again one of the top teams in the West and the league.

Heroes & villains:

Geoff Cameron v. Kyle Beckerman—Going back to his days with the Colorado Rapids, Beckerman has always had feisty games against Houston. His work-rate and careful possession may cause problems for Houston’s revamped central midfield. Cameron comes off a lukewarm performance in the opener playing in the new role as the team’s attacking central midfielder. Cameron must try to get box to box and find space between the midfield and the back line, pulling Beckerman out of position.

Robbie Findley v. Dynamo center backs—Last week, the speed of Dallas’s Jeff Cunningham caused Houston’s defense repeated problems. Findley brings even more pace. With Dynamo defender Eddie Robinson out injured, replaced by Ryan Cochrane, Findley’s constant threat of finding space in the gaps and behind the backline could wind up determining the outcome.

Stat that makes you go “Hmm...”

Six of the last seven Houston-RSL matches have seen red cards, including five ejections in three games last year.

He said it:

“Tough game for us, but definitely a game we’re looking forward to and it is nice to get a game at home.” — Dominic Kinnear, Houston head coach