Real Salt Lake's lack of quality leads to first home loss of 2016

SANDY, Utah—After flirting with danger by giving up early goals, but then coming from behind at home, it all finally caught up with Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.

RSL fell, 1-0, to the Houston Dynamo for their first home loss of the MLS season, and a missed opportunity for three points in the Western Conference's playoff race. Needless to say, it was a frustrating night for the hosts.

“Tonight wasn't a good performance,” said RSL head coach Jeff Cassar. “It was just odd.”

There were plenty more adjectives Cassar used to describe the loss: gross, disappointing, average, off, poor and tough.

It was the goal against the run of play on a turnover in Houston’s attacking third that gave him pause. Asked about what happened on the game's decisive moment, Cassar waited a full seven seconds before responding.

“We got away with it the first time and then we made the same mistake 20 seconds later and paid for it,” Cassar said.

Alex was the player who made Salt Lake pay, as he scored in the 36th minute after Ricardo Clark dispossessed John Stertzer. Alex reached the loose ball while already behind the RSL defense and smashed a shot past Nick Rimando for the lead.

Salt Lake had come from behind for a league-leading 23 points this season. They had produced six wins after trailing 1-0, but couldn't add a seventh on Saturday.

Houston slowed the game down, but RSL still produced a number of chances. Most of them were poorly taken, however, as Real Salt Lake finished with just one shot on goal.

“We didn't give our fans anything to cheer about,” Cassar said.

The first half was particularly slow, with three of the combined four shots from the teams coming in a five-minute span that included Lima's winner. The deficit and pace gave Houston the opportunity to be organized defensively, and that caused RSL problems.

“We just didn't have any real quality about the game,” Cassar said. “We need quality passing, not poor turnovers and flicks that we resorted to for some reason. That's not us.

“Everyone can't be average, someone has to take the game by the scruff and make a play.”

Cassar tried to make something happen, bringing on Jordan Allen in the 51st minute and Olmes Garcia in the 70th, but RSL got little return even with the extra attack-minded players on the field.

If there is a silver lining in the defeat, Allen found it.

“This is our first loss at home, so the end of the world can't happen tonight,” Allen said.