The Houston Dynamo were not sharp to begin Sunday’s game against Real Salt Lake and in the end that turned out to be their undoing.
Fifteen seconds into the game Houston was already down 1-0 as Javier Morales scored a deft chip before they attempted a pass. Seventeen minutes later Morales had doubled the lead.
“I don’t think we did ourselves any favors at the beginning,” goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “We didn’t really recover well. We need to do a better job…We’re going to make mistakes, but it’s not that we’re not going to play well. We need to take a deep breath and fight better than we did in the first half.”
That focus was absent from the first kick when Morales scored his first of three on the night. Houston failed to get a touch on the ball before RSL was a goal up. After Morales’ second, Sherrod scored on a set piece and Houston looked to be back in the game. Then their slow start was made worse when Carrasco was shown a straight red card for a tackle on Morales.
“I put the team in a bad spot to have to play down to 10 men,” Carrasco told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “If I just stay on my feet that probably doesn’t happen. I have to apologize to every single guy in the locker room because that’s completely my fault and not theirs. I could’ve avoided that situation altogether.”
Carrasco’s red card was a big blow to a club that was desperate to overcome a slow start. While the red hurt, it was not the entirety of their problems. The lack of focus and rough play were the early culprits.
To their credit, Houston fixed their problems at the half and came out flying, pinning RSL in despite being down a man.
“We talked about saying we’re going to go out conservative, formation-wise, but try and be as aggressive as possible with our play,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “They left it all out on the field. There’s some tired people in there, tired minds and tired bodies.”
Houston pushed the attack and started to return the favor to RSL and it led to Sherrod scoring his second after a lazy pass from Alvaro Saborio.
As they continued to push down 3-2 the rough start, and Carrasco’s red, reared its head again as tired legs and chasing RSL around on a hot afternoon took its toll.
“You have to focus, because when you’re focused in you give yourself an advantage,” Hall said. “I think in general, if you look at it, it was a team thing and that’s on us as players. We’ve just got to put two halves together.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.