Real Salt Lake Emerges Victorious Following Heroic Julio Strike Versus Houston

Aug 18, 2021, 10:02 PM | Updated: 10:35 pm
Houston Dynamo FC - Real Salt Lake...
(Courtesy of Real Salt Lake)
(Courtesy of Real Salt Lake)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake relied on a late strike from Anderson Julio to finally defeat Houston, much to the relief of the home crowd.

“So happy for the guys, the mentality of our whole roster was brilliant, manager Freddy Juarez said post-game. “It wasn’t pretty, I thought we started the game well, the next 20 minutes I wasn’t happy, but they ground it out and found a way to get the job done.”

Juarez was forced into a move at left-back following the absence of Ashtone Morgan due to health protocols. Donny Toia filled the void alongside Marcelo Silva, Toni Datković, and Aaron Herrera across the backline. Zac MacMath continued his spell in goal following news that starting keeper David Ochoa is yet to return to full health following a quad injury.

Damir Kreilach and Everton Luiz held down the middle of the pitch, while Justin Meram, Albert Rusnák, Jonothan Menéndez, and Bobby Wood rounded out the starting XI.

Justen Glad returned from his yellow card suspension but began the fixture on the bench following the clean sheet that was performed just a few days ago against Austin.

Blistering Start

RSL got off to a blistering start when Meram found the back of the net in just the sixth minute. The play developed following a brilliant tackle in the midfield by Menéndez and Rusnák, the ball then fell to Wood who danced around a slide tackle before playing a simple ball onto the feet of Meram who hit the ball first time into the bottom right-hand corner.

Sadly, that shot remained the only shot on target for the half for the hosts.

RSL led the possession tally comfortably at halftime while both teams entered the main interval with four shots.

Houston was playing as RSL expected them to; aggressive. The Dynamo constantly looked to cut off the passing lanes and urged RSL to play the ball down the flanks.

Although, RSL was looking to expose Houston by finding the space in amongst the chaos before flicking the ball out onto the open side. When that was not possible, RSL looked to play a long, diagonal pass onto the open flank.

The pressure that Houston puts opposing teams under is a lot to handle. They bring their fullbacks all the way up the pitch in an attempt to turn the ball over in dangerous parts of the field.

RSL fell into that trap on a handful of occasions, fortunately, the recovery from RSL defensively combined with the lack of clinical finishing from Houston enough to keep a clean sheet.

Déjà Vu

Much like the previous encounter with Houston at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Dynamo quickly asserted their authority early in the second half. This time, however, it came from the most unlikely of sources from a corner kick as left-winger Fafà Picault headered the ball between MacMath’s legs from the six-yard line and into the back of the net.

Houston looked determined to pick up their first road victory in 2021. Shortly after the goal, they continued to pepper the goal of MacMath.

Juarez immediately went to his bench and brought on Rubio Rubin for Wood. Tab Ramos of Houston then responded and brought on perennial goalscorer Maximiliano Urruti.

RSL’s best moment to regain the lead came in the 58th minute when Menéndez skied his right-footed attempt over the bar despite not being under any pressure.

The 13,000 odd home fans in attendance grew in frustration as the game progressed. The RSL players were starting to show signs of pressure and the tension was palpable.

Juarez went to his bench with the hope of finding a hero.

That hero emerged in the 89th minute when Anderson Julio slotted home RSL’s game-winning goal. He received the ball at the top of the box from Rubin who was looking for a one-two, but Julio opted to shoot himself. Falling away from the ball he tucked his curling shot into the bottom right-hand corner and RSL breathed the most emphatic sighs of relief.

Julio had been out of favor as of late. That will likely change moving forward.

“Three points are always good no matter how they come,” Meram said post-game. “Overall, look, subs came in and made a difference and we found a way to get the job done which we are proud of,” he added.

Next Match

RSL will travel to Colorado on Saturday, August 21, and take on the Rapids for the second time this year. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. and the match can be streamed for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports dot com.

The first encounter between the two clubs on July 24 led to a 3-0 victory for RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium. A win on August 21st and RSL will secure the Rocky Mountain Cup 12th time in the 17 seasons of existence.

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