SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake were not exactly spoiled for choice lineup-wise, but nonetheless picked up much-needed win over a Western Conference opponent thanks to a bit of the spectacular.
Missing two of their star players and even their head coach, RSL pulled out a 2-0 victory over a 10-man Houston Dynamo on Saturday evening, in part thanks to a wonder strike from acting captain and maestro, Javier Morales.
The winner came in the 36th minute, as Jordan Allen won the ball after a Dynamo clearance and got it to Joao Plata, who shepherded it forward to Morales. The veteran playmaker took a long-distance shot on the half volley with the outside of his right foot, leaving Houston 'keeper Tyler Deric with no chance as the ball went in off the post.
Morales' magic was just what the doctor ordered for a struggling RSL side missing both Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando to Gold Cup duty with the US men’s national team. Head coach Jeff Cassar was also absent from the bench due to a suspension levied for an incident after last week’s match against the Colorado Rapids.
RSL had several more chances before the halftime break.
The Dynamo nearly doubled Real's lead themselves in first half stoppage time, as RSL defender Abdoulie Mansally whipped a dangerous cross into the box. Houston defender Raúl Rodríguez, running at his own goal, got a touch to the ball to send it right at Deric, who was just able to paw it over the bar with a spectacular reaction save.
Again, Houston saved a surefire goal in first-half stoppage time on the subsequent corner. RSL defender Justen Glad was able to head down Morales’ ball to the feet of Allen, who poked the ball towards the net. Kofi Sarkodie saved it just in time off the line, however, and the score held at 1-0 entering the break.
Sarkodie’s hero status wouldn’t last long, as he was shown a straight red card just six minutes into the second half after coming in late on Mansally as the RSL player tried to cut towards the middle of the field.
RSL would get an insurance goal not long after, thanks to a well-worked give-and-go between Plata and Morales in the 65th minute. The diminutive Ecuadorian forward knifed right through the Dynamo’s defense, picking up a one-time flick from Morales and burying a low shot into the back of the net for his first MLS goal of the year.
The Dynamo fought hard despite being a man down, but were unable to find a way back and RSL seized the full three points.
Houston have a quick turnaround, traveling to face Sporting Kansas City in US Open Cup action on Tuesday, and RSL will welcome in the same team for a Friday night league matchup.
Real Salt Lake (6-7-8; 26 points) vs. Houston Dynamo (6-8-6; 24 points)
MLS regular season
July 18, 2015 – Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
Real Salt Lake: Javier Morales 4 (Jaoa Plata 3) 36
Real Salt Lake: Joao Plata 1 (Javier Morales 7) 65
Houston Dynamo: Tyler Deric; Kofi Sarkodie (ejected 51), David Horst, Raúl Rodríguez, Taylor Hunter; Alex (Leonel Miranda 45+1), Nathan Sturgis (Luis Garrido 46), Ricardo Clark, Alexander López (AJ Cochran 53); Brad Davis ©, Will Bruin
Substitutes Not Used: Joe Willis, Rasheed Olabiyi, Chandler Hoffman, Mauro Manotas
Real Salt Lake: Jeff Attinella; Tony Beltran, Aaron Maund, Justen Glad, Abdoulie Mansally; Olmes García (Luis Gil 72), Jordan Allen (John Stertzer 84), Javier Morales, Luke Mulholland (Pecka 88), Joao Plata; Devon SandovalSubstitutes Not Used: Lalo Fernandez, Boyd Okwuonu, Elías Vásquez, Sebastian Saucedo
HOU: Kofi Sarkodie (ejection) 51
HOU: Luis Garrido (caution) 68
Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referees: Gergory Barkey, Brian Dunn
Fourth Official: Tyler Ploeger