Houston • In a 5-2 win, it is not often you hear that a defensive play is the turning point of the game, but for Real Salt Lake, Nick Rimando’s penalty-kick heroics stood out.
After RSL (5-0-5) took a commanding 3-1 lead Sunday over the Houston Dynamo (4-5-2), Rimando was put in a familiar position. Up two goals, a set piece foul on David Horst pitted Rimando against Giles Barnes. With the lead on the line, he was up to task, stoning Barnes and keeping Houston, which fought hard in the second half, at arm’s length.
RSL 5, Dynamo 2
Real Salt Lake 3 2 — 5
Houston 1 1 — 2
First half » 1, Real Salt Lake, Morales 1 (Saborio), 1st minute. 2, Real Salt Lake, Morales 2 (Grabavoy, Plata), 17th. 3, Houston, Sherrod 1 (Davis), 22nd. 4, Real Salt Lake, Saborio 6 (Mulholland), 32nd.
Second half » 5, Houston, Sherrod 2 (Barnes), 56th. 6, Real Salt Lake, Mulholland 3 (Morales), 78th. 7, Real Salt Lake, Morales 3 (penalty kick), 89th.
Goalies » Real Salt Lake, Nick Rimando Houston, Tally Hall.
Yellow Cards—Saborio, Real Salt Lake, 26th Garcia, Houston, 45th+ Sherrod, Houston, 90th+.
Red Cards—Carrasco, Houston, 27th.
Assistant Referees—Adam Garner. Claudio Badea.
4th Official—Ismail Elfath.
Salt Lake— Nick Rimando, Aaron Maund, Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert (Abdoulie Mansally, 46th), Luke Mulholland, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Joao Plata (Cole Grossman, 74th), Alvaro Saborio (Devon Sandoval, 60th).
Chicago—Tally Hall, David Horst, AJ Cochran (Omar Cummings, 71st), Kofi Sarkodie, Corey Ashe, Brad Davis (Brian Ownby, 84th), Servando Carrasco, Oscar Garcia, Andrew Driver (Warren Creavalle, 35th), Mark Sherrod, Giles Barnes.
"He makes really big plays, makes huge saves," RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy said. "It’d be tough to argue that that play wasn’t the biggest play in the game."
Rimando agreed on the importance of the stop.
"I know what kind of player [Barnes] is," Rimando added. "I thought he was going to try and hit it hard to my right. It felt big because 3-2 is a different game going into the locker room."
That two-goal lead held up.
RSL put Houston in a hole in record fashion with Javier Morales scoring just 15 seconds into the match. His sublime chip before Houston could even take a touch was a precursor of a start that put the club in pole position and was the fastest goal in RSL history, besting Matias Mantilla’s 27 second effort in 2008.
Morales, who scored a hat trick on the day, adding goals in the 17th and 89th minutes, combined with Rimando and Alvaro Saborio — who scored in the 32nd minute — to give RSL a commanding lead.
"Anytime you can go up two early it gets their fans against them and boosts our confidence," Kyle Beckerman said. "When he can score like that, he’s scoring goals and getting assists, but that’s our guy."
The first-half dominance was aided by a Houston team that was its own worst enemy. A sluggish start with sloppy passing and errant play all-around was exacerbated by a 27th-minute red card to Servando Carrasco that put the Dynamo down a man the final 63 minutes.
The one-man advantage did not reap immediate benefits for RSL.
"We weren’t playing like we did in the first half," Rimando said. "They were better with a man down than they were with 11 guys on the field. We just couldn’t get the ball moving."
Houston pinned RSL in to start the second half and Mark Sherrod, who made his first start in the place of injured Will Bruin, scored the second of two goals in the 56th minute to cut the lead to 3-2.
"I was a little worried there for a little bit," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. "It’s going to be a learning experience for some of the players, but I believe in them 110 percent."
There was no need for Cassar to worry.
Luke Mulholland worked around charging Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall for a 78th-minute goal and Morales added his PK to push the club’s undefeated start to 10 games.
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