HOUSTON — Two penalty kicks awarded within the span of a minute allowed the Houston Dynamo to take a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake Thursday at Robertson Stadium.
A season-opening crowd of 18,197 saw a typical Dynamo-RSL battle. Unfortunately for RSL, the result was all too familiar.
Thursday's defeat dropped RSL to 0-6-1 in Houston and 2-7-4 overall.
Javier Morales gave RSL the lead in the 16th minute with his third goal of the season.
Alvaro Saborio began the combination series by taking possession just inside the attacking third. Saborio crossed to Kyle Beckerman, who found Morales cutting across the middle and threaded a pass through the defense.
Morales created a one-on-one with Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad and buried the shot.
RSL protected the edge until the 53rd minute, when Jamison Olave was called for a foul against Luis Landin inside the penalty area.
Less than a minute later, Olave was hit with another penalty for a slide tackle on Landin.
On both occasions, Brad Davis converted the penalty kick for the Dynamo.
"Things seem to happen at the most inopportune times," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "Maybe (Houston) was rewarded for their spirit, their mentality and their attacking instincts in the second half. They were rewarded by penalty kicks.
"I don't want comment about the calls. I'll just comment and say that you don't love your team's reaction when the ball is back in your half with another chance to score 30 seconds later. We've got to look at that and see if we can't improve"
The two penalty calls continued the string of bad luck incurred by Olave against Houston. The RSL defender has drawn red cards in two of the past three contests while defending against Brian Ching.
Landin replaced Ching in the 28th minute after the Dynamo forward went out with a strained left hamstring.
"This seems to happen every year we come down here," RSL captain Beckerman said. "It's something we've got to be ready for next time. You have to know that something foolish is going to come and prepare for it."
While RSL was fortunate to be up a goal at halftime, Kreis felt his team had a lot of margin for improvement.
Ball possession, an essential part of RSL's offensive strategy, began to fall off as the first half progressed and fell apart further in the second half.
"Our biggest problem was that we just weren't possessing the ball well enough," Kreis said. "That continued in the second half and probably got a little bit worse.
"We're a team that lives and dies with the ball. We need to possess the ball. We didn't do that well enough."
That would mean putting together more combination attacks like the passes that produced the goal by Morales in the first half.
"That was just interchanging some passes," Beckerman said.
"Saborio held the ball up, faked like he was going to open up and chopped it to me. I turned and played the ball into Javier and he did the rest."
One area where RSL did well for the second straight week was play defense on the back line. The defensive quartet of Robbie Russell, Olave, Chris Wingert and Nat Borchers continually broke up Dynamo attempts to cross passes and penetrate the final 18.
Houston displayed more attack in the second half, due primarily to better play in the midfield.
"We're very pleased with our back four," Kreis said. "It's a very solid unit, but we defend as a team. Defensively, we have a very firm understanding of how we want to defend.
"We did a pretty decent job, certainly in the first half. I don't think they had much opportunity to score."