Real Salt Lake might have been the underdogs going into last year’s championship, but this year they have proven to be legitimate contenders. Their win over the Houston Dynamo on May 13th put them into second place in the Western Conference. As a result of the match, both teams have thirteen points, but Real Salt Lake has a superior goal differential. Both Robbie Findley and Alvaro Saborio dominated the attacking third of the field and left Houston’s defense on their heels for most of the game.
Real Salt Lake burst out of the gate in the opening minutes. Findley broke down the pitch and took a shot on
goal but was denied by Pat Onstad. In the following play, Kyle Beckerman chipped the ball to Findley, who headed it past Onstad for the opening goal.
In the 24th minute Javier Morales tried to dribble through three defenders, but lost control of the ball. Saborio jumped at the half-chance and scored Real’s second goal. In the second half, the two hooked up for Saborio’s second goal. While Morales’s free kick
Photo from fOTOGLIF
dipped into the goalie box, Saborio broke free from Houston’s defense, timed his run to perfection, and headed the ball into the goal. Throughout the match Real’s aerial game, primarily driven by Beckerman and Morales, broke Houston’s defense. This allowed their attackers to break the Dynamo’s back line with well-timed runs into open space. Also, their short game looked impressive; Findley and Saborio were able to dribble through defenders and create opportunities with a number of well-timed short passes.
Since Brian Ching’s injury, Houston has struggled to consistently win games. Ching came on in the 62nd minute and ten minutes later Brian Mullan scored the Dynamo’s lone goal. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Ching held the ball for a moment and fed it to Mullan who skillfully cut into the center of the field and placed the ball in the far end of the net. A second example of Ching’s influence on the game came in the 86th minute when Dominic Oduro passed to Ching who passed to Brad Davis, an unfulfilled but noteworthy moment during the match that exemplified their potential. They gracefully worked the ball as a unit and created a great opportunity to score.
What will happen to both Real and Dynamo as Robbie Findley and Brian Ching leave to train with Team USA? An entertaining side note, Findley didn’t even hear about being called up to the national team until his club teammates told him the morning of their match against Houston. Ching, as a result of his injury, couldn’t be certain about his place with the national team but found himself on the list. Without Charlie Davies, coach Bob Bradley needs to find a range of forwards who can score, something which evaded the national team at the last World Cup. Both players possess different skills, and it will be interesting to watch the international friendlies in the coming weeks to see how the players gel as a team.