Real Salt Lake's 0-0 draw with Houston Saturday night probably wasn't the result many RSL fans were wanting, but they will take it nonetheless. The goal-scoring difficulties that RSL has faced over the last several games continued, but that may be acceptable for some fans while head coach Jason Kreis tries to find some solutions for his lineup with numerous pieces not healthy.
Javier Morales' ankle injury suffered last week was still on the minds of the over 16,000 fans in attendance for the match against the Dynamo, but normal starter Fabian Espindola was also not selected for the lineup, and young Brazilian Paulo Moraiss Jr. is still not fully fit after the hamstring injury he suffered. So, the attack was thrown off even more than most might have expected and the prevailing feeling by many in the crowd was that a draw would be good enough for now.
It was clear during pregame that the Argentine playmaker Morales was still on the players’ minds. Nick Rimando went through warm-ups with a jersey that showed Morales and the No. 11 on the back. As the pregame video played on the scoreboard, some fans close by mentioned how it was weird to see Morales in the video when he wouldn’t be playing in the game, and almost expected him to walk out of the tunnel from the locker room and be in the starting lineup as usual.
As the game got underway, the team brought more energy compared with last week, but the crowd still struggled to bring sustained energy at the beginning of the match. That changed in the 11th minute when many fans held up signs bearing Morales’ number and chants of “Jav-ier Mor-ales” rang through the stadium.
The show of support was very moving and the team appeared to appreciate it. RSL really controlled most of the first half and had some chances to take a lead into the locker room at halftime, but the finishing touch was not there.
The players came out more sluggish in the opening portion of the second half, but some spectacular plays from Rimando and others brought the crowd back to life, if only briefly. As the clock continued to tick, Houston began to pressure the RSL defense more and more nearly scoring on a couple of chances.
Salt Lake continued to play its game, however and did mount some attacks as the game wore on, but still could not find its way through the Houston defense. Some missed touches and passes that were just not quite placed well enough didn’t allow RSL to get any shots off even though it had opportunities to do so.
In what has become something of a normal thing at Rio Tinto Stadium the crowd began to get more into the game as less and less time was left on the clock before finally breaking into a stadium-wide 'Ole' chant as the clock hit 90 minutes and stoppage time began.
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The players fed off of the energy of the crowd, and they tried to press forward for the game-winning goal late in the match. Fan-favorite Andy Williams nearly gave them what they wanted late when he had the keeper out of position, but his shot was just inches outside the post. Time expired shortly after and RSL kept its MLS 29-game, regular-season unbeaten streak alive.
Many people left the stadium in a much better mood compared with last week even though RSL only earned one of the possible three points, but the future is still looking bright for the club whose philosophy is “The Team is the Star.”
Landon Walters is a history and political science major currently studying at Salt Lake Community College and is an avid sports fan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at www.twitter.com/LandawgDew