Real Salt Lake regained the lead in the race for the Supporter's Shield, sending the Houston Dynamo to their first loss in their last five as an Alvaro Saborio penalty kick proved the difference for a 1-0 decision Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
For the first time at home, and only the second time this season, Real came out in a 4-3-3 formation rather than their customary 4-4-2 diamond midfield. After an opening 10 minutes that saw Houston emerge as the aggressors, RSL began to find its rhythm in its new shape.
Playmaker Javier Morales nearly put RSL in front in the 24th minute when he put on a display of dribbling skills before firing a bending shot over the top of the net from 24 yards out.
Only a few minutes later, a nice run and give-and go from Olmes Garcia ended with a cross that deflected to Joao Plata and the Ecuadorian struck a rocket that slammed off the crossbar.
Houston succeeded in getting into RSL's defensive third, but the visitors were unable to get past the last line of defense and settled for several shots from distance that were either wide or handled easily by RSL 'keeper Nick Rimando.
It wasn't until the 37th minute that the scoreline changed. It was Garcia once again threatening the Dynamo defense with Houston's Adam Moffat undercutting the first-year player on an aerial challenge in the box and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.
Saborio stepped up and buried the penalty kick for his 5th goal in three games since returning from international duty and the Dynamo were up 1-0 at the break.
In the second half Houston pushed their outside backs further upfield into the attack, but the Dynamo's best looks would come late in the match on a handful of set pieces which were neutralized by the RSL defense.
Real will travel to play the defending champions LA Galaxy next Saturday, while Houston will welcome Clint Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders on the same day.
Real Salt Lake (12-7-5; 41 points) vs. Houston Dynamo (9-7-6; 33 points)
MLS regular season
August 10, 2013 – Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
Real Salt Lake: Alvaro Saborio 9 (penalty) 37
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Warren Creavalle (Jason Johnson 65), Ricardo Clark, Adam Moffat (Boniek García 81), Brad Davis; Will Bruin, Giles Barnes (Cam Weaver 74)
Substitutes not used: Erich Marscheider, Eric Brunner, Mike Chabala, Anthony Arena
Real Salt Lake: Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Carlos Salcedo, Chris Wingert; Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy, Javier Morales; Olmes Garcia (Devon Sandoval 73), Alvaro Saborio, Joao Plata (Luis Gil 61)
Substitutes not used: Jeff Attinella, Lovel Palmer, Cole Grossman, Robbie Findley, Sebastian Velasquez
HOU: Ricardo Clark (caution) 9
RSL: Ned Grabavoy (caution) 15
RSL: Olmes Garcia (caution) 68
Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
Referee's Assistants: Frank Anderson, Adam Wienckowski
4th Official: Mark Kadlecik