Sandy • It was hard for Real Salt Lake to be excited about its possession statistics when its final match of a three-game homestand ended in a scoreless draw.
Real Salt Lake extended its unbeaten streak to five matches, but the tie against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium left RSL hard-pressed for points.
Real Salt Lake (7-12-5, 26 points) remains in eighth place in the Western Conference, six points out of the final playoff spot, as Houston (9-7-7, 34 points) moved up to second.
“Disappointing,” defender Chris Wingert said. “Three points in three home games when you’re already a bit behind the eight ball is just not enough. But at the same time, there are some positives to take out of it.”
“Who would have thought before month ago that teams would come in here and sit in against us,” RSL coach Mike Petke said. “Teams were coming in here and taking it to us and trying to put us under pressure right away.”
RSL didn’t create any particularly dangerous opportunities in the fist half, with none of its five shots on frame, but the combination play showed lots of promise. Real Salt Lake finished the first half with 65.5 percent of the possession.
Real Salt Lake thrived on quick passes in situations like Joao Plata’s shot in the 20th minute that missed wide. Midfielder Kyle Beckerman set up the sequence by switching the direction of the attack. Plata then passed forward to Luis Silva, who laid it back to Plata for a right-footed shot.
RSL knocked on the door again in the 42nd minute. Silva shanked Plata’s cross, but Jefferson Savarino followed on the back post but missed wide.
“Now we’re playing,” RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. “It’s fun to watch the guys in front of me have great combinations and the three guys up top linking up together now a little bit more than we did in the beginning of the season.”
Houston had the only shot on target of the first half. Memo Rodriguez lined a high curling shot on goal in the 31st minute, and Rimando made the save.
RSL went back on attack after halftime. It narrowly missed three shots in a three-minute span, starting with a Savarino chip in the 48th minute that landed outside the far post.
Houston dropped to 10 players when Alex tallied two yellow cards in quick succession. In the 64th minute he was booked for unsporting behavior when a minor tussle broke out. A minute later he was sent off for the same offense.
Petke brought Yura Movsisyan in for Savarino in the 78th minute to put fresh legs on attack up top, but even with man advantage, Real Salt Lake was unable to convert a multitude of chances.
“We were looking for that goal,” Petke said. “I felt that our balance was good enough that we weren’t going to give up much going the other way.”