by Brayden Palmer
Real Salt Lake played to a scoreless draw in Houston Saturday night to earn a hard-fought point on the road. The Houston Dynamo are just as desperate as RSL for three points and both teams did everything they could to come out victorious on the night.
In a game where it looked like the attackers would make the headlines, the defense stole the show. The 0-0 draw wasn’t without scoring chances. Goalkeepers and defenders made brilliant plays to keep the score level through the end of the night.
Dynamo keeper Marko Maric had the first chance to shine. In the 11th minute Salt Lake drove the ball into the box and got more than one deflected shot off before the ball bounced to Albert Rusnak at the top of the Houston eighteen. He laid the ball off for Maikel Chang who struck a ball that curled toward the inside of the far post. Maric decided the ball wouldn’t arrive in the net and hurled himself across the goal to make the save. He was also up fast enough to catch the rebound headed back at goal by Damir Kreilach.
Houston had their big chance of the half in the 33rd minute on a breakaway. Memo Rodriguez found himself completely free a few yards outside the RSL goal box and ripped a shot toward goal. This hit was again curling into the far post – or so Rodriguez thought. The ball bounced off the post and away from goal to deny the would-be goalscorer. Salt Lake goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who stepped in goal to make his 150th MLS appearance, was very grateful in that moment.
Both teams had several more great chances throughout the game, and both MacMath and Maric were up for the challenge. Each keeper came up with saves, cross-claims, and clearances to keep the opponent out of the net. Although Maric had his grateful moment as well as he watched Albert Rusnak sting a ball off of the post and out in the 50th minute.
Former RSL player Corey Baird recently signed with the Dynamo and arrived in Houston just yesterday. He was on the bench to start the game, but came on in the 62nd minute and immediately started creating for his new team. Baird had several wonderful chances – along with a few scuffed ones – but the script couldn’t be changed and MacMath denied each opportunity.
Real Salt Lake had to ride the game out from the 87th minute on when Justen Glad received a second yellow card for a jersey tug at the halfway line. Glad was furious to be sent off but the referee was adamant and no review was made on the play.
RSL Head Coach Freddy Juarez made defensive-minded substitutions to kill off the game and try to escape with the point on the road. Houston never broke the depleted defense of the visitors and Real accomplished the red-card forced goal of just one point. Neither team will be happy with the result after so many squandered chances, but two goalkeepers might be satisfied.
Real Salt Lake has a quick turnaround to Wednesday in Carson, California where they will take on the LA Galaxy for the second time this season. Freddy Juarez will have some personnel changes to concoct with a short rest and no Justen Glad after his red card.