Needing a win to take over first place in the Western Conference, the Houston Dynamo didn't get off to the best start.
But, after falling behind after just three minutes, the Dynamo regrouped to score four goals in the first half and held on to defeat Real Salt Lake 4-3 on Saturday at Robertson Stadium, extending their winning streak to three games and unbeaten streak to six games. Real Salt Lake saw their unbeaten streak end at four games.
Facing the two-time defending champions after having moved into the position a month earlier for the first time in club history, RSL came out firing and took the lead after just three minutes. Robbie Findley sent Yura Movsisyan into the penalty area and he split a pair of Dynamo defenders before going in alone on goalkeeper Pat Onstad, and slotting the ball home.
But it didn't take long for the Dynamo to tie the score. Brad Davis sent a long pass from the left flank and Brian Mullan, in behind the RSL defense, controlled the ball before going in alone on RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Mullan cut to his left, completely faked out Rimando, then back to his right before firing the ball high into the empty goal.
The RSL defense thought Mullan was offside on the play, but linesman Fabio Tovar didn't see it that way and the score was tied 1-1.
Both teams had good chances to pull ahead. Brian Ching got a pass in the right side of the box from Craig Waibel in the 23rd minute, but Ching had the ball stripped and Rimando came up with it. Movsisyan tried to give RSL the lead back in the 25th minute, but his shot from the left of the area was stopped by Onstad.
But Morales gave RSL the lead in the 25th minute when Bobby Boswell's attempt to clear in the box went off Eddie Robinson's head and back into the box where Morales, ever the opportunist, picked up the loose ball on the right and let loose a bullet that found the upper right corner of the goal.
Yet once again the Dynamo responded. Craig Waibel found Mullan all alone down the right flank, and after dribbling to the corner, he cut the ball back to Ching inside the corner of the area. Ching fired home a left-footed shot inside the far post for his ninth goal of the year.
Two minutes later, Ching tried to give the Orange the lead, but his header off a Wade Barrett cross went wide. Mullan tried in the 34th minute, but his shot from 25 yards out was easily saved by Rimando. Later in the 34th minute, Davis let go with a bullet from outside the area on the left that Rimando knocked away.
Ricardo Clark then put Houston in the lead barely a minute later. From a throw-in, Clark trapped the ball and let loose a rocket that sailed into the upper left-hand corner past Rimando.
The Dynamo nearly extended their lead a minute later, but De Rosario's shot from the left side of the area went off the left post.
Nate Jaqua scored his first league goal in his return to MLS in the 42nd minute, making it 4-2. Davis sent the ball into the left side of the area, and though Ching was headed away from goal, he still knocked the ball back down for Jaqua to run onto, and he drove it home under Rimando.
The four goals scored by Houston were the most goals scored in a half in team history.
RSL tried to cut into the lead to begin the second half, but Findley's diving header from just outside the goal area was saved by Onstad in the 49th minute. Then in the 57th minute, Chris Wingert sent a cross just outside the 6-yard box, but Findley's header went right of the goal.
As RSL continued to push forward to pull back into the game, the Dynamo had their share of chances. Kei Kamara was unmarked in the box in the 78th minute, but his header from the center of the box went wide left.
Kenny Deuchar cut the lead to 4-3 in the 80th minute with a low shot that found the left side-netting. Morales served the ball into Findley, who headed it from the top of the box to the right, where Deuchar let his angled shot go.
Kamara had a couple of good opportunities to extend the Houston lead in the next three minutes. First, his shot from inside the area was saved by Rimando in the 81st minute, and then after going through the RSL defense, his attempt from the right side of the box in the 83rd minute was knocked out of bounds.
From the resulting corner kick, Ching came through the crowd for a header that went left of the goal. Ching then should have finished off the match once and for all. Kamara nearly went in alone, but was forced into a tight angle. He laid the ball back for Ching, but with the goal at his mercy, he put it over the bar.
Corey Ashe then had one final opportunity in the 89th minute, but his rocket from the left side of the area was saved by a diving Rimando and knocked out.
Jeremy Rakes is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.