HOUSTON — Houston turned a last-gasp prayer shot into a 3-2 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Robertson Stadium.
With less than 20 seconds remaining in second-half stoppage time, Alex Dixon took a 20-yard shot that found its way into the net.
Robbed of a well-deserved tie, RSL fell to 10-7-6 for the season and 0-7-1 in games played in Houston.
"We're heartbroken," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "You look around the locker room and all of us feel devastated.
"You never want to be in position in a match where you have two leads and walk away with nothing. If we're 30 seconds better, we walk away with at least a point and pat ourselves on the back for all the hard work we put into that match."
Dixon, a 21-year-old first-year player, entered the game as a substitute for Colin Clark in the 80th minute. The last-gasp shot was Dixon's first professional goal in his seventh appearance, all coming as a substitute.
"I was surprised that a very young player who hasn't many positive contributions to Houston's season to make a special play like that at the end of the game," Kreis said. "It hurts, for sure."
RSL held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the contest, but lost both of them.
Thirteen minutes after conceding a tying goal to Brian Ching, RSL took a 2-1 lead when Luis Gill took a cross from Fabian Espindola and scored on a header in the 60th minute.
That lead lasted just 10 minutes, with Bobby Boswell pulling Houston even with a header of a Brad Davis corner kick.
It was a devastating setback for RSL, which scored twice on the road for only the second time this season.
"There were a lot of positive things that went into this match," Kreis said. "Certainly the guys gave it everything they had. I'm pleased with the number of chances that we created, the fact that we scored two goals in Houston and that we had two leads.
"Unfortunately, soccer is not always a one-sided affair. You have to look at both sides of the story, and the other half I'm pretty displeased about."
That sentiment was echoed by RSL midfielder Andy Williams, who came on for Warner at the outset of the second half.
"I don't think we possessed the ball pretty well in the second half," Williams said. "They were switching the ball a lot and getting crosses in the box.
"Geoff Cameron was coming through the midfield and they were creating chances that way. I don't think some of the older guys stepped on the ball, took a deep breath and told everyone to relax."
RSL got a break when a Dynamo goal in the 27th minute was waved off when Carlo Costly was whistled offside while heading in a shot.
RSL wasted no time on a restart and quickly moved the ball upfield.
Two passes put the ball at the feet of Collen Warner, who sent a cross to Espindola on the near side. Espindola beat Houston's Tally Hall with a shot into the corner to earn his seventh goal of the season.
It was first road goal for RSL in 425 minutes, dating back to an Espindola score at Philadelphia on June 11.
Any momentum that RSL carried into the break was blunted two minutes into the second half.
Costly took possession and made a quick pass to Brad Davis. Davis moved through a pair of RSL defenders before crossing to Brian Ching in the goal box for the tying Dynamo goal.
RSL's defense was able to keep the Dynamo in check for the majority of the first half. Davis' goal lit a fuse under his team and helped the Dynamo offense regain its form.
"The first thing that happened was that we allowed a soft goal," Kreis said. "They did a combination play with Brad Davis and he went through two or three of our players. No one makes and a tackle and (Davis) is in the box and can slide a ball over to Brian Ching.
"Once they did that, the momentum has gone against us. Rather than getting out on our front foot like we did at the beginning of the match, we didn't get it done and we're reeling."3 comments on this story
RSL pressed the attack from the beginning and came close to recording the game's opening goal in the third minute.
Espindola made a good run through the Dynamo defense and crossed the ball to Alvaro Saborio in front. Hall managed to get in front of the shot and block it.
The Dynamo made its first attack in the eighth minute and missed on two chances to take the lead. Costly set up the opportunity by stepping in front of a pass. Nick Rimando was able to come out and block the one-on-one attempt. Brad Davis fired a quick rebound shot that was cleared off the goal line by RSL defender Tony Beltran.