Real Salt Lake put road prowess up against Dynamo
Posted on: 28 Oct, 2023 at 09:06 PM
Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Something has to give when Houston Dynamo FC, one of MLS' best home teams, host Real Salt Lake, who have been ultra successful on the road, on Sunday in the first match of a best-of-three Western Conference first-round playoff series.
It marks the first meeting between the sides in the postseason.
Only one point separated Houston (14-11-9, 51 points), the fourth seed in the West, from Real Salt Lake (14-12-8), the fifth seed, after the regular season. Houston earned 37 points (11-4-2) at home while allowing just 11 goals, tied for the fewest in MLS.
Hector Herrera, the Mexican national midfielder imported to help facilitate Houston's turnaround, said he always had confidence that things were going to click. He finished second in the league assists with 17 and added four goals while playing more than 2,500 minutes.
"To be honest, I didn't think it would be so quick, but we had a lot of faith and hope that we had a good team that could compete like we are now, thankfully," Herrera told mlssoccer.com this week. "I consider myself a winner who always wants perfection, for the team to be playing well. I knew it was going to be a big challenge I wanted to take on."
Real Salt Lake have lost just three times to the Dynamo over their past 10 league matches in Houston (three wins, four draws) after going winless (eight losses) in the previous nine contests. RSL garnered 28 points and eight wins this season on the road -- second most in the league in both categories.
Seven of those victories have come since May; RSL have lost just twice away from home over their final 13 regular-season matches.
"For us, it's going to take everything that we've learned along the way," RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni said. "We're going to have to do our damage on the road. But given the way our season looked this year, I feel comfortable going on the road and doing the job there."
Real Salt Lake will likely be without some key players. Defenders Justen Glad and Brayan Vera are nursing injuries as is striker Cristian Arango, who scored six goals and added two assists in his first season with the team.
Houston is unbeaten against RSL in all three meetings this season, producing a win and a draw in MLS play and a win in the U.S. Open Cup.
--Field Level Media