If at first you do not succeed try, try again. That is what the Houston Dynamo did from the penalty spot Thursday night and it turned out in their favor as Colin Clark scored from the spot to give the home side a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake.
Clark came through in the 94st minute, burying his PK attempt straight down the middle just 16 minutes after teammate Brad Davis had his PK attempt saved by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
The first 75 minutes was a match of push and pull as both clubs dealt with big absences due to international call-ups, injury or illness.
The teams struggled to find their feet, but RSL forward Fabian Espíndola — making his first start since August 18 in place of Alvaro Saborío — provided the early chances. The striker forced a fantastic kick-save from Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall in the 11th minute and then, in the 19th, had a good look on goal until the Dynamo's Ricardo Clark made a well-timed recovery tackle to quell the danger.
Action lulled for much of the match, until the final 15 minutes, when a PK call in favor of the Dynamo ignited the action.
In a Houston counterattack in the 75th minute, Macoumba Kandji squared a ball toward the center of the box for a streaking Will Bruin. Although Bruin failed to get to the ball, RSL defender Chris Schuler followed through and knocked the Dynamo striker to the ground with a shove from behind, prompting referee Ismail Elfath to point to the spot.
Davis stepped up to the ball, but Rimando made a great diving save to his left to keep it scoreless.
Just four minutes later, it was Hall's turn to make a heroic stop. RSL defender Nat Borchers directed a corner kick service off the ground and to the far post only to see Hall make the acrobatic save.
The two goalkeepers then traded big stops again. First, in the 84th minute, Corey Ashe served a ball for Bruin, who headed the ball from close range only to see his effort blocked by Rimando.
Then, with only a minute left in regulation, it was Hall's turn to step up as RSL's Ned Grabavoy was sprung on a one-v-one only to be stoned by the Dynamo netminder.
Once in stoppage, when it looked as though the teams would settle for the scoreless tie, Rimando made the grave mistake of rushing off his line to punch a crossed ball away only to run over Kandji in the process.
This time it was Colin Clark who stepped up to take the penalty kick and drove the ball hard down the middle to give his team three big points.
The victory snapped a four-game winless streak for Houston, who next play on September 14, when they travel to face Eastern Conference leaders Sporting KC (7:30 pm CT, NBC Sports Network).
Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, return to action on September 18, when they travel to Panamá to take on Tauro in Champions League action. They return to MLS play on September 22, when they host the Portland Timbers (7 pm CT, NBC Sports Network).
Houston Dynamo (12-7-9) vs. Real Salt Lake (14-11-4)
September 6, 2012 BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston
HOU: Colin Clark 1 (penalty) 90+4
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell (Cam Weaver 74), Ricardo Clark, Corey Ashe; Calen Carr, Luiz Camargo, Brad Davis; Macoumba Kandji, Will Bruin (Alex Dixon 89), Colin Clark
Substitutes not used: Tyler Deric, Brian Ching, Josue Soto
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler; Jonny Steele, Yordany Alvarez, Javier Morales, Ned Grabavoy; Paulo Jr. (Emiliano Bonfigli 45), Fabian Espindola (Luis Gil 83)
Substitues not used: Kyle Reynish, Jamison Olave, Enzo Martinez, Sebastian Velasquez, Justin Braun
HOU: Colin Clark (caution) 64
HOU: Calen Carr (caution) 64
RSL: Jonny Steele (caution) 84
Referee: Ismael Elfath
Referee's Assistants: Peter Manikowski, Craig Lowry
4th Official: Jasen Anno