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Dynamo fight for draw with RSL

By Jeremy Horton / Staff

SANDY, Utah — Despite playing with 10 men for almost an hour, the Houston Dynamo were able to hang tough and gut out a 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. Pat Onstad came up with several highlight-reel saves to earn the clean sheet.

Real were the aggressors in the early going, nearly hitting paydirt only seconds into the match. Fabian Espindola sent an awkward bouncing cross into the Houston penalty area from the right side. The Dynamo defense was unable to clear and it fell to Clint Mathis. But Mathis was wrong-footed by the cross and sent it wide.

Then in the 15th minute, Will Johnson pounced on an errant Dynamo pass and dribbled 30 yards into the left side of the penalty box. He shot at the near post but missed just wide.

Houston didn’t get their first good chance until the 25th minute. After RSL was ruled offside, the Dynamo quick-started a counterattack that found Stuart Holden running free up the right wing. He created some space to get clear of Nat Borchers and unleashed a hard shot that flew a few feet over the crossbar.

Just minutes later, a weak RSL clearance up the middle of the field bounced out to Geoff Cameron. Cameron took a hard first-time shot from 30 yards that again just missed high.

In the 35th minute, RSL nearly capitalized on a corner kick from the left side. Javier Morales sent a cross to the far post where Robbie Findley was able to get his head on it. His header narrowly missed the far post.

In the 36th minute, Houston went down to 10 men when Andrew Hainault was sent off for his second yellow card of the match after a hard foul on Espindola. It was also Espindola whom Hainault fouled in the ninth minute to pick up his first yellow card.

Salt Lake took advantage of the extra man to press the matter. In the 41st minute, Real found Kyle Beckerman 25 yards out straight away from goal. Beckerman struck a good shot, but Onstad made an excellent diving save to his right to preserve the clean sheet.

Things took a turn in Houston’s favor in first-half stoppage time. Findley got behind the Houston defense and received a cross from Javier Morales. Findley took a point-blank shot from four yards from goal, but Onstad made an incredible reaction save to deny Findley.

Findley chased down the rebound and ended up going down hard in the penalty area as Cameron challenged for the ball. Referee Paul Ward let play continue, but when Mathis expressed his displeasure about the no-call, Mathis was shown his second yellow card (he received his first after just four minutes), putting the teams even at 10 men apiece going into halftime.

Undaunted by their sudden reduction in manpower, the home team picked up in the second half right where they left off in the first half. Espindola and Findley nearly connected again when Espindola hit his teammate with a cross from the left side. Findley made a good effort to get his head on the ball, but his header just glanced off the underside of the crossbar, hit Onstad on the ground, and was cleared away from danger.

Then in the 53rd minute, Beltran almost floated a long ball from the left wing into the upper right corner of the goal, but Onstad made another fine save, tipping it over the bar.

Salt Lake continued to control the match throughout the second half, but the Houston defense was stout the entire time. They bent but were unable to be broken, frustrating RSL time and time again just when it looked like it would break the deadlock.

On the other end, Houston went forward with caution, often only committing Brian Ching and Kei Kamara to the attack as the match drew closer to full time. The Dynamo got most of their late opportunities on set pieces, but they could not turn many of them into truly dangerous chances.

In the 84th minute, RSL again nearly broke the ice when a weak Houston clearance came out to Morales about 15 yards from goal on the right side. The Houston defense were able to close him down just enough that he was forced to change his shot just enough that he missed wide right.

Houston finally were able to earn a golden set piece opportunity in the 90th minute, winning a free kick just outside the RSL area on the right side. Holden took the free kick, but the shot hit one of his own players and went out for a goal kick.

Both teams return to action next Sunday, Aug. 23, with Real Salt Lake facing a trip to take on the New England Revolution, while the Houston Dynamo return home to take on Seattle Sounders FC.

Jeremy Horton is a contributor to