SANDY — Real Salt Lake's attacking woes reached a new low Saturday night.
Some struggles were to be expected in RSL's first game without injured midfielder Javier Morales, but nobody could've predicted what happened against visiting Houston.
On a night when RSL did enough to win the game by generating 13 shots, it was putrid in the final third, putting one measly shot on goal in settling for a 0-0 draw in front of 16,301 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"You've just got to bury one," groaned RSL captain Kyle Beckerman after the match.
That's been much easier said than done lately for Real Salt Lake, which has scored just once in its past four games over all competitions.
Coach Jason Kreis summed the night up best when he said, "some good, some bad. A little bit ho-hum tonight."
Nobody was happy about it, but Beckerman said the team will take the point and gladly move on. The result extended RSL's home unbeaten streak in league play to 29 straight.
Chances were tough to come by for both teams in the first half, but things really opened up in the second half, not necessarily to RSL's liking either as Nick Rimando was forced to come up with three big saves to preserve his 78th career shutout.
"In the second half, the game opened up a little bit more than we wanted it do. They were pretty dynamic in the midfield, you have to give them credit," said defender Nat Borchers.
Nobody said playing without Morales was going to be easy, and his absence was certainly noticeable on Saturday. Ned Grabavoy, however, said there's no use in bemoaning that reality.
"Javy is going to be out for a while and we need to move on with it and it needs to be a collective effort. Few players in this league can do what Javier does, so it has to be a collective group effort in there," he said.
Collen Warner got the starting nod at attacking midfield against Houston before being replaced by Andy Williams in the 60th minute. Like the rest of the team, Warner was ho-hum, according to Kreis.
"I think it's going to be a process without Javy. He's one of the most creative players in the league. When you lose a guy like that, you're going to notice a difference," said Borchers. "I thought Collen stepped up and did well. In the second half, we just weren't good enough going forward with the ball."
Salt Lake improved to 5-1-1 with the tie, while the Dynamo's record now stands at 3-3-4.
There were chances to turn that draw into a win, and none was bigger than Williams' effort in the box in the 94th minute. It was an opportunity that Real Salt Lake of two months ago would've buried, but certainly not right now.
"It's just not sharp, it's one of those things when you're feeling great about yourself and you're playing so well everything just comes so easy. We just seem to be in a little bit of a funk," said Grabavoy.
Kreis stressed that replacing Morales is going to be a process, and Saturday was the first step in that process. The next opportunity will come on May 22, in Dallas, a place Real Salt Lake has never won.
Even though the attack continues to struggle, the defense got the job done once again, recording its fifth shutout in seven matches this year.7 comments on this story
"The back four in particular made a lot of really important tackles tonight. I don't think collectively we defended as well as I would've liked; certainly in the second half I saw quite a few of our players running out of gas," said Kreis.
A year after setting a new defensive benchmark in MLS with 20 goals allowed, two months into this season RSL has only allowed two goals and is on pace to shatter that record.
That was little consolation for RSL at home Saturday night, where it always expects to get the maximum three points.
"We're chomping at the bit right now to get goals, and I think it's going to come. We've just got to keep fighting," said Borchers.