For the next ten business days, HoustonDynamo.com will count down the ten best Dynamo games of 2012. With so many great games to choose from, it was difficult to settle on ten, and tougher still to decide how to rank them. We will unveil one game per day, with a look back at what made the game special and include game highlights. Here is #10:
Dynamo 1 : 0 Real Salt Lake
Sept. 6, 2012 - BBVA Compass Stadium
If the Dynamo were destined to lose at home in 2012, and see their streak of 21 consecutive regular season home games without defeat come to an end, it seemed Real Salt Lake were a potential candidate to crash the BBVA Compass Stadium inaugural season party when they came to town.
After the Dynamo surged into first place in early August, a busy schedule brought a dip in form and a tired team to BBVA Compass Stadium on Sept. 6 against Real Salt Lake.
Houston was set for its sixth game in 19 days amid an extraordinary travel schedule – the six games were staged in four cities across three countries - and included visits to El Salvador and Honduras in consecutive weeks. Four days before the meeting with RSL, the Dynamo fell to the Chicago Fire, 3-1, at Toyota Park. Houston was 0-2-2 in its last four league games heading into the RSL game, which landed during a FIFA date, and as a stomach virus plagued the men in orange.
With four players – Boniek Garcia, Andre Hainault, Jermaine Taylor and Je-Vaughn Watson – already away for international duty with their national teams, several other players, including Nathan Sturgis and Adam Moffat could not play due to the virus. It meant the Dynamo were left with only five substitutes, two less than normal.
Real Salt Lake also entered the match with a limited squad due to injury and international duty. Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson and Alvaro Saborio were away with their national teams for World Cup qualifying and defender Jamison Olave was on the bench with a left hamstring strain.
Houston was forced to start midfielder Ricardo Clark at center back and Kofi Sarkodie made his first league start of the season at right back. Midfielder Colin Clark made his first league since June 23. With both teams short-handed anything was possible on a warm, humid night in Houston.
Before Colin Clark provided the game’s biggest moment in second half stoppage time, it was a goalkeeping showcase from Houston’s Tally Hall and RSL’s Nick Rimando.
Hall offered the first important save of the night, stopping a low shot from Fabian Espindola after he broke free on the left side of the penalty area in the 11th minute.
With the game scoreless, Houston earned a penalty kick in the 75th minute. Corey Ashe found Macoumba Kandji on the edge of the box, and Kandji crossed in front of Will Bruin, who was knocked over by Chris Schuler.
Brad Davis took the penalty for Houston but was stuffed by Rimando, who parried the shot away with a confident, two-handed save.
Seven minutes later, Rimando came up big again. Ashe floated in a beautiful cross from the left corner and Bruin met it with a strong header from six yards. Rimando reached back with his right hand for a great save.
Hall followed Rimando’s stops with a few gems of his own. In the 79th minute, Hall stopped a strong, bouncing header from Nat Borchers with a one-handed save to his left.
Just minutes before Clark’s late heroics, Hall made a pivotal save on Ned Grabavoy, who broke into the box alone before firing a low shot from 15 yards in front of the center of the goal.
Finally, in the third minute of stoppage time, Dynamo midfielder Luiz Camargo floated a ball from midfield to the top of the Real Salt Lake penalty area. Kandji, with his back to goal, prepared to settle the ball as Rimando came flying towards the ball from behind, crashing into Kandji for a penalty kick.
Clark took the spot kick and blasted it straight down the center as Rimando dove to his left, and the Dynamo had a dramatic 1-0 win. Clark and a few teammates ran up the tunnel toward the Houston locker room, hopeful the game was over. After returning to the field, the final whistle soon followed, and Houston improved to 8-0-1 all-time in home games against Real Salt Lake.
Hall earned his 11th shutout of the season to tie Pat Onstad’s franchise record for shutouts in a season by a single goalkeeper. It was also Hall’s 25th career regular season win.
Return to HoustonDynamo.com on Tuesday for Game #9 on our list of the Top Ten Dynamo games of 2012.