In a match that eventually showcased some of the high-tempo offense both teams are capable of — delivering offsetting goals by Albert Rusnak and Mauro Manotas — the Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake dueled to a 1-1 draw in the season opener for both teams on Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Initially, the Dynamo's pace appeared to keep RSL on edge, as they drew yellow cards from three different RSL players in the first 27 minutes. But the visitors were able to wrest control of the match late in the first half. Corey Baird, making a marauding run down the left flank, sent a pass in front of goal that Rusnak pounced on to capture the lead.
Both teams came out of the halftime break displaying more overall offensive savvy, and the Dynamo were able to equalize in the 62nd minute, when Adam Lundkvist sent in a cross that Manotas nearly turned on and directed into goal. It appeared that Boniek Garcia delivered the Dynamo's first lead of the season with a 76th minute strike, but it was ruled offside. New Dynamo d-mid Matias Vera made things a little more tense for the home faithful, getting sent off for his second yellow in the 81st minute, but they were able to hang on to the draw despite the man disadvantage.
- THE BIG PICTURE: For RSL, a road result against a conference opponent is a positive start to the season, setting them up for next Saturday's home opener. For the Dynamo, it was a physical game in which Alberth Elis in particular was bumped, bodied, and fouled while putting in a full shift — not optimal given that the first leg of the Dynamo's Concacaf Champions League match against Tigres is looming Tuesday. Vera, with his two yellow cards, won't be available for next Saturday's match against Montreal Impact, to add to squad rotation woes already beginning for Houston.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: RSL looked as if they might have answered Manotas' equalizer with a go-ahead goal in the 65th minute, but Joe Willis stretched out and snatched a dangerous Aaron Herrera cross that Jefferson Savarino would have surely smashed home to change the complexion of the match:
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Rusnak and Manotas are vital to their teams' respective 2019 fortunes, and opening their accounts on Saturday is a good, positive, encouraging start that could propel them to the playoffs.
- HOU: Tuesday, March 5 vs. Tigres (10 pm ET | Univision Deportes, YahooSports.com)
- RSL: Saturday, March 9 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC (6 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, DAZN in Canada)