Facebook Twitter

Real Salt Lake beats Houston in penalty kicks, forces Game 3

A perfect penalty shootout from Real Salt Lake sends Real back to Houston for Game 3 and a chance to advance to the Western conference semifinals

SHARE Real Salt Lake beats Houston in penalty kicks, forces Game 3
Real Salt Lake midfielder Diego Luna, second from right, celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Houston Dynamo following an overtime penalty shot during an MLS playoff soccer match Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Real Salt Lake midfielder Diego Luna, second from right, celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Houston Dynamo following an overtime penalty shot during an MLS playoff soccer match Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Sandy, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

AP

Real Salt Lake beat the Houston Dynamo 1-1 (5-4) in penalty kicks Monday at America First Field, forcing a Game 3 of their first-round playoff series in Houston.

The win came down to a crucial play by RSL goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who blocked the first shot of the penalty shootout by Amine Bassi, Houston’s only miss. Referees thought MacMath went off his line but upon further review, the result stood.

Then Cristian “Chicho” Arango stepped up to take RSL’s first penalty kick and put Real up by one, setting the tone for the club.

Real was perfect on penalty kicks with Arango, Damir Kreilach, Jefferson Savarino, Brayan Vera and Diego Luna all scoring.

Real came from behind to win the match and has now tied the best-of-three series. Houston led the series 1-0 after beating Real 2-1 on Oct. 29 in Game 1 in Houston.

RSL will now head to Houston in hopes of beating the Dynamo again and advancing to the Western conference semifinals.

On Monday, Bassi put the first goal of the match on the board in the 28th minute. MacMath blocked Bassi’s free kick, but Bassi scored on his second shot.

Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark, whom RSL fans booed loudly every time he was in the vicinity of the ball, finally saw some action 10 minutes into the second half, as RSL midfielder Braian Ojeda’s shot in the 56th minute was RSL’s first closest shot to tying up the score.

Two minutes later, Savarino gave Real another chance, but his header went right into Clark’s hands.

In the 61st minute, former RSL midfielder Corey Baird had MacMath one-on-one but missed.

Arango tried to spark RSL’s offense in the 64th minute when a shot from outside the box went wide. Two minutes later, his shot was blocked by the body of Micael dos Santos.

Then Savarino decided to change the fate of the game. Already RSL’s leading goalscorer this season, Savarino’s goal off a free kick in the 70th minute tied the game up, breathing life back into the home squad.

Real had a chance to take the lead in the 71st minute after a foul from Houston’s Erik Sviatchenko just outside the penalty box, but Vera’s shot sailed over the net.

What’s next for RSL?

RSL will travel back to Houston for Game 3 on Saturday, with first kick set for 4 p.m. MST. The game will be streamed on Apple TV+.

This is RSL’s third consecutive season making it to the playoffs and fifth in the previous six seasons — 2020 was the only exception due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last season, Real fell in the first round of the playoffs in a penalty kick shootout with Austin FC.

Houston has played the role of RSL’s villain this season, snapping the club’s streak of 11 consecutive unbeaten games and depriving Utahns of a visit from Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF by beating Real in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal.

But Real can get the last laugh if they come out on top Saturday. If RSL wins Game 3, they will advance to the conference semifinals and host Sporting Kansas City in a single-elimination game.

Real has played Kansas City twice this season: a draw and a loss in RSL’s final regular season home game.

Correction: This article originally stated that Real Salt Lake’s next game is at 2 p.m. MST on Saturday. It is scheduled for 4 p.m. MST.