Real Salt Lake Force Round One Series Finale in Houston with Penalty Shootout Win over Dynamo
SANDY, Utah - Real Salt Lake (14-12-8, 50 points, 5th West; 0-1-1 in Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs) earned a crucial penalty-kick victory over Houston Dynamo in a home elimination match to force a Round One series finale, with Game Three coming up this Saturday, November 11 at 4:00 p.m. MT (Apple TV+ / MLS Season Pass). Despite conceding first midway through the second half, a free-kick equalizer from Jefferson Savarino and a save during the penalty shootout from Zac MacMath lifted the Claret-and-Cobalt to survival.
From the first whistle, the two sides found themselves entangled in a chippy and aggressive battle, neither team able to find fluidity due to the stop-and-start nature of the game. With much of the game being played out in the midfield, the first shot on goal arrived in the 28th minute when Houston was awarded a penalty kick from a foul inside the box by Justen Glad. Goalkeeper Zac MacMath was able to make the initial save, but Amine Bassi followed up his shot, putting the rebound into the back of the net to give the Dynamo the 1-0 lead.
The Claret-and-Cobalt struggled to find an answer to erase the one-goal deficit, with the team's best chance coming in the 37th minute off a shot from Bryan Oviedo, but his attempt fell wide left. Unable to secure the equalizing goal, RSL entered the halftime break trailing 1-0.
With the team's postseason future hanging in the balance, Real Salt Lake came out for the second half in desperate need of a goal. Midfielder Braian Ojeda nearly pushed one through into the back of the net in the 56th minute, but Steve Clark was able to read the attempt well, making the save. Moments later, Colombian Designated Player Chicho Arango almost brought the crowd to its feet, but his well-placed header was scooped up by Clark.
As the second half progressed, Real Salt Lake continued to find itself with opportunities to equalize, forcing the Dynamo to sit back in an attempt to absorb the pressure and thwart any opportunities. But in the 70th minute, Venezuelan International Jefferson Savarino - a Designated Player and RSL's 2023 Golden Boot winner, with 7 MLS goals and 10 across all competitions - finally found the elusive equalizer, rocketing a free kick from deep outside the 18-yard-box into the upper-right corner.
Deadlocked at 1-1, Real Salt Lake pestered Houston's backline, looking for the go-ahead goal, but a strong defensive showing from the Dynamo sent the match into a penalty shootout tiebreaker. With Houston selected to go first, MacMath stepped up and made a massive save, giving RSL the advantage. With the lead in penalty kicks, Chicho Arango, Damir Kreilach, Savarino, Brayan Vera and Diego Luna each converted their attempts, forcing a decisive Game 3 in Houston this Saturday, November 11 at 4:00 p.m. MT.
UP NEXT: Real Salt Lake again heads to Houston at Shell Energy Stadium this Saturday, November 11 for Game 3 of the series, with the winner advancing to the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Semifinals.
HOU: Amine Bassi, 28nd minute: Houston was awarded a penalty kick for a foul inside the box by Justen Glad. Bassi saw his first attempt saved by Zac MacMath, but he was able to follow up his shot and put the ball into the back of the net.
RSL: Jefferson Savarino, 70th minute: After being awarded a free kick, Savarino pounded his shot into the upper-right corner, sending the ball screaming past the diving arms of Steve Clark.
The match marked the Club's first home playoff match since 2019, a 2-1 win over Portland Timbers that October. Throughout the Club's history, the Claret-and-Cobalt have now posted a 6W-2L-4T in home playoff matches, last dropping a home playoff match in 2012 to Seattle.
RSL's home record in elimination games this season improved to a perfect 3-0-0, with RSL advancing over LA Galaxy in a June Open Cup contest, and over León (MX) in an August Leagues Cup match.
20-year-old midfielder Diego Luna recorded a game-winning penalty kick conversion, on top of his five goals this season, across all competitions. His score tonight - albeit not a regulation goal - marked the fourth consecutive game in which Luna has scored.
Additionally, his goal in the series opener at Houston made him the youngest playoff goal scorer in Club history, surpassing Yura Movsisyan, who scored his first goal in the postseason at 21 years and 91 days old.
Designated Player Chicho Arango returned to the pitch as a second-half substitute for Anderson Julio in the 55th minute after missing the past month due to a 25th-minute injury sustained on October 7 against Sporting Kansas City.
Goalkeeper Zac MacMath's initial save on Amine Bassi's penalty kick was the first-ever penalty save from a Real Salt Lake goalkeeper during Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, through 33 all-time postseason games.
Jefferson Savarino's equalizing goal marked just his second in the postseason, his first ironically coming in the team's last home playoff match in October 2019, a 2-1 win courtesy the game-winner from Savarino.
Real Salt Lake (4-4-2): Zac MacMath; Andrew Brody, Justen Glad, Brayan Vera, Bryan Oviedo; Andres Gomez (Damir Kreilach 90+4'), Nelson Palacio, Braian Ojeda, Diego Luna; Jefferson Savarino, Anderson Julio (Chicho Arango 55')
Subs not used: Gavin Beavers, Kevon Lambert, Emeka Eneli, Danny Musovski, Maikel Chang, Rubio Rubin, Jasper Löffelsend
Houston Dynamo (4-3-3): Steve Clark; Franco Escobar (Teenage Hadebe 75'), Griffin Dorsey, Erik Sviatchenko, Micael dos Santos; Artur, Hector Herrera, Adalberto Carrasquilla; Amine Bassi, Corey Baird (Imbrahim Aliyu 68'(Thor Ulfarsson 90+4')), Nelson Quinones
Subs not used: Andrew Tarbell, Daniel Steres, Ivan Franco, Sebastian Kowalczyk, Ethan Bartlow, Luis Caicedo
Stats Summary: RSL / HOU
Shots on Goal: 3/5
Corner Kicks: 7/4
HOU: Steve Clark (caution) 16'
HOU: Amine Bassi (caution) 17'
RSL: Justen Glad (caution) 27'
RSL: Braian Ojeda (caution) 33'
HOU: Griffin Dorsey (caution) 48'
RSL: Brayan Vera (caution) 52'
HOU: Adalberto Carrasquilla (caution) 69'
HOU: Erik Sviatchenko (caution) 71'
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