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3 takeaways from RSL’s scoreless draw vs. Houston

Houston Dynamo forward Tyler Pasher (19) goes over Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach, July 31, 2021, in Houston.
Houston Dynamo forward Tyler Pasher (19) goes over Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (8), who attempts a slide tackle during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Houston.
Michael Wyke, Associated Press

Real Salt Lake traveled to Houston Saturday night to face the Dynamo for the second time this season — the first meeting ending in a 1-1 draw — as The Claret and Cobalt kicked off the first of three road games in an eight-day stretch.

Both teams had ample chances to notch a tally on the scoresheet, but after 90 minutes and a whopping eight minutes of second-half stoppage time, the final result was a scoreless draw. Coming away with a point may have been a relief for an RSL squad that was reduced to 10 men in the 87th minute when Justen Glad was sent off after being shown his second yellow card of the game.

Veteran keeper Zac MacMath played a strong game in goal, making a handful of saves in the clutch and helping RSL secure its fourth clean sheet of the season.

Here are three takeaways from RSL’s trip to Houston:

MacMath fills the goal admirably

Filling in for the injured David Ochoa (quad tightness), the 11-year veteran MacMath delivered a rock-solid performance for RSL, with steady distribution from the back and multiple impressive saves.

The most impressive and important came in the 95th minute when former RSL player Corey Baird (recently traded to Houston from LAFC) volleyed an on-frame shot toward goal that MacMath stretched and extended for, successfully pushing the shot above the crossbar and saving RSL from potentially coming away with zero points.

“He was great for us today,” RSL coach Freddy Juarez said of MacMath, attributing his performance to his effort in training. “That’s what has been expected (from him). He’s been training well all season and that’s been his mentality: be ready, train hard. He doesn’t take a day off ... and that’s what led to a good display.”

Very sudden mood shift

In the final 10 minutes of the 90, RSL started finding itself on the front foot and it appeared a potential game-winning goal may be on the horizon. However, in the waning minutes of the game, Baird spun away from Glad — who had played exceptionally up to that point — and the center-half grabbed a handful of his jersey, forcing the official to show Glad his second yellow card of the game, which reduced RSL to 10 men for the final minutes.

Suddenly, the squad found itselft in a much different position, with the one-point draw now looking like a fortunate result.

Left back Ashtone Morgan said the incident definitely changed the game, but sparked the team enough to ensure it came away with the point.

“That play definitely changed the rhythm of the game,” Morgan said. “Justen took one for the team, did what he had to do and no one’s going to fault him for that. ... As a team we rallied and made sure we saw out the game and secured the point.”

A bit more humid than Utah

Players and coaches commented after the game about the harshness of the heat and humidity at BBVA stadium in Houston.

MacMath said that humidity was draining for the players, but explained that Houston players noted that it was a fairly mild night compared to other conditions they had experienced in the stadium. Whether the Dynamo players’ acclimation to the weather provided an advantage is unclear, but it was clear that the conditions made life difficult for all on the pitch.

Juarez was praiseworthy of his team for working hard and battling the unforgiving elements.

“(The heat here) is the real deal,” Juarez said. “It’s always just hovering above you. So, for the guys it’s nothing but praise for them because if us, as fans, are watching and sitting there and we’re sweating, so I can only imagine what it’s like running around on the field in competition.”