Being in second place has not produced much good luck for Real Salt Lake so far this season. Prior to facing the Houston Dynamo on MLS Primetime Thursday, RSL earned losses in both games as a second-place team.
Fortunes for Real improved, but not by much, the third time around. Both RSL and the Dynamo missed out on a chance to pass by Los Angeles in the Western Conference standings after battling to a 0-0 draw at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
RSL controlled things most of the way on offense and defense but, once again, struggled with finishing in the final third. They outshot Houston 16-10 for the game, and each team cleared a ball off the line. Real also finished a man down after Chris Wingert was sent off in second-half stoppage time.
Robbie Findley worked hard to inject some life into the RSL offense in the first half, setting up a beautiful scoring opportunity in the 24th minute. He latched onto a long ball that came into his path and drew out Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad to the edge of the penalty area.
Rather than go for goal, Findley laid it off to Kyle Beckerman just outside the top of the box. As soon as Beckerman penetrated the area, he drilled a shot through Onstad's legs that was perfectly on frame. But Bobby Boswell came up with perhaps the play of the half when he cleared the ball away while standing on the goal line.
Findley tried to score one of his own in the 26th minute when he gathered in the ball after a throw-in from Chris Wingert and tried to head it home. Findley's shot sailed high over the crossbar, although it would have gone right at Onstad had it been on frame.
Real had little luck with headers in general before halftime. Beckerman set up Kenny Deuchar in the 19th minute after corralling the ball along the far sideline and hooking it around Craig Waibel to the center of the box. But he nudged a header wide right of the frame.
Deuchar had another chance in the 32nd minute when Javier Morales swung a corner kick into the center of the penalty area. Deuchar battled for possession and fell forward to get his head under the ball. But he put his shot off target again -- this time over the crossbar.
Findley took first crack at getting on the scoreboard after the break. Wingert crossed it into him at the outside corner at the top of the area in the 50th minute. Findley went one-on-one with a defender and sent a fierce drive past, but the shot just grazed the top of the bar.
It served as a prelude to a flurry of shots by RSL starting in the 57th minute. Morales opened the floodgates by swinging a corner kick to Deuchar in the goalmouth scrum. Deuchar headed the ball right at Onstad, who easily deflected it away.
Over the next three minutes, Real attacked the goal with a zealous degree of energy. Both Ian Joy and Kenny Cutler tried to dial it in from long distance but came away empty-handed. Things climaxed in the 60th minute when Beckerman settled a ball in the penalty area, fed it to Andy Williams and he rifled a shot aimed at goal that Craig Waibel blocked away.
Frustrated with its inability to produce much of anything on offense, Houston let its emotions get out of control at times in the second half. Bobby Boswell and Wade Barrett were issued yellow cards within three minutes of each other, in the 70th and 73rd minute respectively.
The Dynamo did not even register their first shot of the half until the 77th minute, but it was a good one. Ricardo Clark drilled a solid left-footer for Houston's first shot on goal of the game. But Clark couldn't get it past the sure hands of Nick Rimando to break the scoreless deadlock.
Rimando came up with another excellent save in the 84th minute when he parried away a right-footed shot from Brian Mullan. Then from a corner kick a couple of minutes later, Dwayne De Rosario's flick header nearly found its way to the back of the net, but Tony Beltran -- who scored the only goal of RSL's loss in Kansas City last week with an own goal -- headed it off the line.
RSL suffered a blow in added time when Wingert was red carded and ejected in the 90th minute by referee Mark Geiger after a sideline scuffle with Corey Ashe. Ashe was issued a yellow card.