Real Salt Lake Fixated On Securing Points In Blockbuster Clash Versus Houston
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake is fixated on securing points as they prepare for a pivotal road trip to Houston in what could potentially prove influential in the race for Western Conference playoff acceptance.
RSL and Houston are separated by only three points in the standings, marking the fixture as a “six-point match,” according to Dynamo head coach Tab Ramos.
Houston, much like RSL, has struggled to find consistency throughout the first 15 games of the 2021 MLS season. As of late, Houston is yet to win a game since May 22nd when they beat Vancouver 2-1 at home. The past eight fixtures for Houston have consisted of six draws and two losses, with one of those draws coming against RSL on June 26 when the two teams settled for a 1-1 split.
That draw on June 26 still lives fresh in the memory of the RSL playing group.
“That was the game that we gave away two points, it should have been a win for us,” RSL captain Albert Rusnák said on the recent 1-1 home draw with Houston. “Now we are going to be going there on the road. We know how they are going to try and play, they are going to be very direct, they’ve got speed up front and experience, a solid midfield three that is going to work hard. We know what to expect from Houston.”
The frustration comes following a dominant display against Houston at home on June 26 that warranted more than just a point for RSL who ended the contest with 21 shots to Houston’s 7 and controlling 58 percent of the possession.
Houston scored through veteran MLS striker Maximiliano Urruti in the 52nd minute after RSL failed to commit a professional foul in the center of the pitch in an attempt to slow the Houston counter-attack down. Consequently, Urruti made the most of his opportunity and slotted home the games equalizing goal by beating David Ochoa from just inside the box.
A Big Test Awaits
Road games in MLS are often very different than home encounters, as RSL learned when they visited LAFC on July 17.
Houston will likely look to be more aggressive at BBVA stadium as they try to control the tempo of the match and utilize home-field advantage.
RSL will also look to do its part in having an impact on the game. RSL vice-captain and center-back Justen Glad made it known that Houston is very good at playing direct, especially when they feel pressure on the ball.
“For me, I am worried about balls over the top,” Glad told KSL Sports. “Especially in Houston this time of the year, it is going to be hot and it is more about making sure everybody is organized and making sure the game doesn’t get too spread open where it is four players attacking and five players defending or vice versa.”
Given the expected humidity at kickoff, RSL is also very wary about not getting involved in any track meet. RSL wants to play the ball out from the back in a methodical manner that cuts up the Houston defense through swift and precise passes. For this to eventuate, the likes of Rusnák, Kreilach, and Pablo Ruiz will need to find pockets of space to operate in.
Houston’s Danger Men
As mentioned above, Houston has dangerous players that have proved lethal throughout their MLS careers. None more so than Urruti who is in the middle of his eighth season in MLS.
Urruti leads the Dynamo with six goals in 15 appearances for the club in 2021, he also has 2 assists next to his name.
Tyler Pasher has also had success in a Dynamo kit this year having scored three goals and notched three assists through his eight appearances in 2021. Pasher’s availability for this weekend’s MLS contest is unknown, however, as he recently participated with his Canadian teammates in their recent 2-1 loss in the Gold Cup semifinal versus Mexico.
Houston’s midfield is known for its tireless work ethic. Picault operates on the left and utilizes his speed and skill to navigate his way through opposing defenses while Memo Rodríguez takes care of the center of the park.
RSL must secure authority in the midfield if they are any hope of securing road points this weekend, a task that is often easier said than done for visiting clubs in Houston.
RSL will head on the road and play the Houston Dynamo this upcoming Saturday, July 31st with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m.
Houston is currently three points worse than RSL in 2021 and two spots below them in 9th in the Western Conference.
The fixture will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.