Both sides had a player ejected in the contest, but neither could break through to score.
The visiting Houston Dynamo and the home-side, Real Salt Lake, played to a scoreless draw despite each team playing down a man for the entire second half at Rio Tinto Stadium. The match was very physical with numerous fouls, and saw an ejection on both sides for players earning their second yellow.
The first half in this one started with an air of intensity usually reserved until the second half of most Major League Soccer matches. Although no goals were scored, both opponents were very active both on and off the ball.
The match also started off as a physical battle, with two yellows in the first ten minutes to Houston defender Andrew Hainhault and Real Salt Lake midfielder Clint Mathis. Both yellows would turn out costly for their respective teams. The yellow cards were just a precursor of the 15 fouls and six cards issued during the half.
The first notable soccer action took place at minute number 15. Real Salt Lake midfielder Will Johnson intercepted a pass about 25 yards out and raced toward the goal. He had space to the right of his defender, and took a shot from within the area, but he was at full speed and unable to get his hips around on the shot, resulting in the shot going wide right.
Ten minutes later Houston’s Stuart Holden got free along the right side and decided to take a long-distance attempt from the top of the box. His effort sailed wide.
The whistles started to fly once again, and in the 36th minute Hainhault picked up his second yellow on an identical play to the first one, resulting in his ejection. Real Salt Lake forward Fabian Espindola flicked the ball forward and Hainhault put out an elbow to try to slow him up. He was rewarded with a yellow for his efforts.
In the 45th minute, RSL defender Tony Beltran put a cross forward to Robbie Findley that he was able to take down cleanly with his foot in the penalty area. He got a shot off, and then was taken down, but he managed to retrieve the ball and was taken down again before the ball was knocked out-of-bounds. His teammate, Mathis, was furious that there was no call on the play and picked up the ball and slammed it to the ground. He was cited with his second yellow of the match, earning an ejection and bringing the teams back to even strength. It was the second silly ejection earned by a Real Salt Lake player this season as defender Jamison Olave picked up one after a confrontation with Brian Ching on a throw-in play, earlier this year in Houston.
Not surprisingly the play in the second half opened up with a lot more space found both in the middle of the pitch and out on the wings. Each team was able to move the ball more at will, but both teams struggled in the final third. The second half was also just as chippy as the opening stanza with another 14 fouls accumulated and a couple of more yellow cards thrown out.
The best chance for either side came right out of the gate in the second half. In the 48th minute, Espindola sprang free along the left wing. He put a low cross into the box to the near post. Findley was able to get in great position and had to lean down to belt height to get his head on the ball. The header beat Houston keeper Pat Onstadt but hit the upright and bounded away.
A few minutes later, Houston forward Kei Kamara rolled a bar directly across the goal mouth from right to left, but his teammates were unable to capitalize on the dangerous pass.
Real Salt Lake had one more dangerous chance in the 84th minute, thanks to a great play by Beltran. He rescued a ball on the end-line on the left side and hit a hard ball into the box. The cross was deflected out, but found its way directly to the feet of midfielder Javier Morales. However, he struggled momentarily to setup the shot, but was able to launch it with his left foot just before the defender arrived on the scene. His low shot just missed wide to the left.
The draw kept Houston easily atop of the Western Conference with 39 points, and an 11-6-6 record. They next play at home against Seattle after a midweek Concacaf Champions League battle. Head Coach Dominic Kinnear was happy with the result on the road especially after going down a man in the 36th minute,
“We were fortunate that we get evened up. We’re pretty proud of the point that we earned tonight.”
Real Salt Lake faces off at New England next Sunday, after moving to 27 points on a 7-8-6 record. Head Coach Jason Kreis had a different outlook on the result than his Houston counterpart,
“We set out goals for ourselves in home goals for three points. When we don’t get three points we’ve got to be pretty disappointed.”
Randy Davis covers Real Salt Lake for Goal.com