Real Salt Lake held its nerve to advance to the SUM U-17 Cup final after a thrilling 5-4 sudden-death penalty kick win over the host Houston Dynamo Tuesday night at the Carl Lewis Track & Field Complex after the teams played to a 1-1 tie. RSL, the 2008 champion and boasting a 13-game unbeaten streak in SUM Cup competition, will face 2007 and 2009 winner D.C. United in the final on Thursday morning.
The game opened in bizarre fashion, with Real Salt Lake's Richard Haddock going down injured in just the first minute and having to leave the game. Play resumed with a long throw-in from Real Salt Lake's Rayshawn Washington, and RSL capitalized with a fluky goal after the ball bounced around in the box on a play the Dynamo thought should have been whistled a foul.
The remainder of the first half was tense and chippy, with neither team creating many scoring opportunities. Real Salt Lake's imposing backline of Washington, Tanner Clay, Phanuel Kavita, and Julio Alarcon effectively shut down Houston's Tamay Sanchez, the tournament's leading scorer. RSL was content to play the ball long and sit on its lead for most of the half.
The Dynamo came out flying early in the second half, forcing three saves from RSL goalkeeper Carson Elliot in the first 15 minutes, including long-range shots from Alex Gonzalez and Sanchez and a close-range flick from Miguel Zapata. Houston finally broke through in the 51st minute when right back Siegfried Casar made a strong 30-yard run up the right sideline and cut across the top of the penalty area. The ball was deflected away from him but fell to Zapata 25 yards from goal, and he rifled a shot into the lower left corner before Elliot could react, sending the Dynamo and their fans crazy.
Houston dominated possession in the second half, with Real Salt Lake often relying on long balls. RSL's best chance came with just a minute of regulation time remaining, when Nick Semintendi curled a free kick on goal from 27 yards out, but Houston goalkeeper Fernando Piña, a halftime substitute, had it covered.
The Dynamo then had two set pieces with a chance to win the game deep in stoppage time, and the second one almost yielded a dramatic finish. Manuel Chavez's driven corner to the back post found central defender Bradley Bourgeois, but his downward header was cleared off the goal line by a terrific defensive play to maintain the tie.
The shootout saw Sanchez bizarrely ejected after coming to a stop on Houston's opening penalty kick attempt and receiving his second yellow card. Although the Dynamo were allowed to replace the shooter, Elliot dove to his right to stop the opening shot from Juan Ramirez. The one-goal edge carried into the final frame, when Antonio Murillo fired his shot over the bar, giving Houston a chance. Martin Fiemawhle equalized to send the shootout into sudden death. Salt Lake's Cole Nagy converted his shot in the top of the frame, and Bourgeois could not answer in the bottom, sending RSL to the final.
Houston, still unbeaten in the tournament at 3-0-1, will face Columbus in the third-place match.
Real Salt Lake vs. Houston Dynamo
2010 SUM U-17 Cup - Semifinal
July 27, 2010 -- Carl Lewis Track & Field Complex, Houston
RSL -- Own goal 4
HOU -- Miguel Zapata 2 (unassisted) 51
RSL -- Richard Velasco (Goal)
HOU -- Juan Ramirez (Saved)
RSL -- Nick Semintendi (Goal)
HOU -- Diego Martinez Del Campo (Goal)
RSL -- Tanner Clay (Goal)
HOU -- Manuel Chavez (Goal)
RSL -- Junior Jbopau (Goal)
HOU -- Fernando Piña (Goal)
RSL -- Antonio Murillo (High)
HOU -- Martin Fiemawhle (Goal)
RSL -- Cole Nagy (Goal)
HOU -- Bradley Bourgeois (Wide)
Real Salt Lake -- Carson Elliot, Rayshawn Washington, Tanner Clay, Phanuel Kavita, Julio Alarcon, Nick Semintendi, John Taylor (Antonio Murillo 36), Cole Nagy, Richard Velasco, Junior Jbopau, Richard Haddock (Matt Gay 3, Aaron Caprio 36).
Houston Dynamo -- Graham Wheeler (Fernando Piña 36), Siegfried Casar, Bradley Bourgeois, Juan Ramirez, Leo Ayala (Martin Fiemawhle 72+), Isaiah Noreiga (Manuel Chavez 55), Sebastian Karpen, Miguel Zapata, Jordan Davies (Bryan Salazar 36, Alex Ochoa 72+), Alex Gonzalez (Diego Martinez Del Campo 44), Tamay Sanchez.
HOU -- Siegfried Casar (caution) 10
RSL -- Matt Gay (caution) 37+
RSL -- Nick Semintendi (caution) 38+
HOU -- Juan Ramirez (caution) 49
HOU -- Tamay Sanchez (caution) 54
RSL -- Rayshawn Washington (caution) 62
HOU -- Tamay Sanchez (ejection; Second Caution) SO
Match played with 35-minute halves
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial