If you are looking for an exceptional match this week, tune into the Real Salt Lake-Houston Dynamo match on Thursday (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET). That’s “exceptional” in the pure sense of the word: “being an exception; uncommon.”
You see, when RSL and Houston face off, uncommon things tend to happen. Or common things tend to happen with uncommon frequency.
For example, the two teams have combined for eight red cards in their last seven encounters. That’s a little over one ejection per match. By contrast, last year in the rest of the matches in the league there was an ejection approximately every three matches.
Through these contests, the Dynamo have usually fared well with an all-time record of 7-2-4. In their meeting in Houston at the start of this season, Real Salt Lake actually held a rare lead on the road going into the halftime break, but the early part of the second half told a different story. A tragedy. RSL defender Jamison Olave committed not one, but two fouls inside the penalty area. The infractions came just three minutes apart, and Brad Davis was willing to take advantage of the opportunities, giving his team the 2-1 result.
Olave has fallen victim to tragic circumstances before when facing Houston. Last season, he saw red twice, one of which appeared to result at least partially from consistent friction with Brian Ching on the pitch. For his part, Ching picked up a red late in a match in which he appeared to take out some frustration on Javier Morales. Yes, there is clearly some tension between the two sides.
Aside from discipline and penalty kicks, there have been bizarre occurrences, too. In 2006, then Real Salt Lake midfielder Chris Klein blasted a long-distance shot off the bottom of the crossbar. The ball deflected straight downward, and the referee controversially credited RSL with a goal, despite many protests that the ball had not crossed the line.
Last season, RSL, who were in the midst of a battle for a playoff spot, went to Houston looking for road points to bolster their cause, only to be disappointed right out of the gate as the Dynamo put up two goals in the first five minutes of the match.
Also last year, perhaps the most bizarre occurrence of them all: a water break. Midway through the first half, under scorching heat, the referee called for a water break. The incident was reported to have been agreed to before the match in the captain’s meeting with the referee. Houston’s Richard Mulrooney who seldom wore the armband insisted that he thought it was a joke.
So if you are looking for something exceptional to see, tune in to the Houston Dynamo/Real Salt Lake match on Thursday. As Forrest Gump might say, you never know what you’re gonna get.