Freddy Juarez says Real Salt Lake are growing in belief as they look to hold down a spot in the Western Conference playoffs with victory against Houston Dynamo on Wednesday.
RSL picked up a first win in four matches thanks to Bobby Wood’s solitary goal against Austin FC last weekend, moving them up to sixth in the West.
Houston are six points worse off and their own hopes of extending their campaign are fading following a run of club-record run of 12 games without a win, which includes three defeats in a row.
While never truly at their best against Austin, Juarez insists the manner of the victory at the Rio Tinto Stadium has given his players a much-needed boost.
“The most important thing was to get three points and start the second half of the season strong,” he said.
“After games like the last one we have more belief in ourselves and our guys get to take a little bit of a breath. The best thing is we know that we can get better.
“We aren’t particularly happy with how we played, but we got the result and that’s what matters most. We celebrated the win and are now ready for Houston.”
The Dynamo went down 3-1 to Colorado Rapids in the most recent of their defeats and have gone three months since last picking up maximum points.
“That last game was sloppy,” said head coach Tab Ramos. “When you manage around 25 shots you would hope to score three or four goals, rather than just one from a penalty.
“We haven’t put away our chances and the final score was what it was.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Real Salt Lake – Bobby Wood
The Claret and Cobalt have scored six headed goals in the league this season, the most recent of those coming via Wood for the winner against Austin. Wood has scored in back-to-back home matches for RSL and, given Houston have shipped eight goals in three games, you would not bet against him notching another here.
Houston Dynamo – Adalberto Carrasquilla
Ramos has wasted little time in getting Carrasquilla involved, handing the recently-acquired Panama international his full debut against the Rapids. Despite the loss, Carrasquilla caught the eye with a game-high five shots and 33 opposition-half passes. He also showed another side to his game, with no player regaining possession more times (12).
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Real Salt Lake are unbeaten in seven straight games against the Dynamo (W3 D4), including playing a pair of draws already this season. Salt Lake have lost just two of 16 home matches against Houston (W8 D6), suffering a pair of 1-0 defeats in 2007 and 2016.
– RSL have put together consecutive home wins for the first time since the end of the 2019 season, beating Colorado and Austin in its last two matches at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL have lost only one of their last eight home matches (W3 D4).
– Houston’s club-record winless run extended to 12 matches (D7 L5) after a 3-1 loss to Colorado on Saturday. The Dynamo have lost three straight matches for the first time this season and they have not lost four in a row since July-August 2019.
– Wood’s 32nd-minute goal in Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 win over Austin FC was the 16th time RSL has scored before half-time this season. Only New England Revolution (20) and D.C. United (17) have more goals before half-time in MLS in 2021.
– Fafa Picault’s goal in first-half stoppage time against Colorado was the 13th of Houston’s 20 goals scored before half-time this season (65 per cent). No team has scored a higher percentage of their goals in the first half this season than Houston.