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3 takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s late victory over the Houston Dynamo

Houston’s 5 Tim Parker and Real’s 8 Damir Kreilach compete for the ball at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.
Houston’s Tim Parker (5) and Real’s Damir Kreilach (8) compete for the ball at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

For the third time this season, Real Salt Lake shared the pitch with the Houston Dynamo. With the first two meetings both ending in draws, RSL hoped to break the tie in the third meeting Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Thanks to a late goal from Anderson Julio, the third time turned out to be the charm as the Claret and Cobalt escaped with a 2-1 victory over the Dynamo, securing three points for the second straight game. Justin Meram scored the first goal for RSL during a breakaway early in the game and Houston’s Fabrice Picault scored the equalizer in the 51st minute which set the stage for Julio’s late game heroics.

Real Salt Lake’s Anderson Julio (29) celebrates his goal in the second half of a soccer game against the Houston Dynamo at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.
Real Salt Lake’s Anderson Julio (29) celebrates his goal in the second half of a soccer game against the Houston Dynamo at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The win moves RSL into fifth place in the Western Conference as it gears up for the second leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup against Colorado — who currently sits at fourth place on the western conference table — on Saturday.

Here are three takeaways from the second straight victory for RSL:

Quick start

The Claret and Cobalt jumped into the driver’s seat early when Bobby Wood came up with the ball deep in the attacking third and laid a pass off to Meram, who took the shot on his first touch and scored in the 6th minute of the game. The goal came just three minutes after RSL appeared to score off of a Kreilach header, but, much to the chagrin of the crowd at Rio Tinto, the offside flag was raised.

The goal was Meram’s first of the season after coming close to finding the back of the net numerous times throughout the year.

“I’ve been knocking on the door and everyone’s been joking about when I’m going to score, so it was about time that I could put one away,” Meram said. “It’s always good to get your first (goal) and get out of the way, so hopefully I can build off of it.”

Super subs come through

Real Salt Lake received a crucial boost from its reserve players, with Rubin (subbed on in the 57th minute) assisting Julio (subbed on in the 80th minute) for the goal in the 88th minute that gifted the team three points when it looked like a third straight draw against Houston was an inevitability,

Meram, who was subbed off for Julio, said that the game-winning play showed how complete the RSL roster is from top to bottom.

“The subs came in, Anderson came in and scored a great goal to win the game, so it’s not about one individual, it’s about how we all collectively play to help one another be successful,” Meram said.

Real Salt Lake midfielder Everton Luiz (25) and Houston Dynamo’s Adalberto Carrasquilla compete for the ball at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.
Real Salt Lake midfielder Everton Luiz (25) and Houston Dynamo’s Adalberto Carrasquilla compete for the ball at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Bouncing back

After a rough, three game road stretch where RSL only added one point to its season total, captain Albert Rusnak said that the team needed to kick things into gear and earn better results. Rusnak went as far to say that the home games against Austin and Houston were “must win games.”

It appears that Rusnak’s mentality permeated into the rest of the team as the squad claimed the full six points against the two Texan opponents. Although the wins were somewhat marginal and far from pretty, Kreilach said that it didn’t matter what the performances looked like as long as they resulted in wins.

“We won the two games. Of course, they weren’t the nicest wins, but at the end of the day who cares,” Kreilach said after the second straight win. “In two weeks nobody is going to talk about the way we played against Austin and Houston. The most important thing is that we’re collecting the points, that’s what it’s all about.”

Real Salt Lake celebrates after Justin Meram scores against Houston Dynamo during a soccer game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.
Real Salt Lake celebrates after Justin Meram scores against Houston Dynamo during a soccer game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News