Too little, too late

By By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

Real Salt Lake found itself in unfamiliar territory Saturday night: in the midst of a shootout.

The Houston Dynamo — fueled by a Nate Jaqua hat trick — outlasted RSL’s comeback effort to claim a 4-3 victory at home. Scoring three goals for only the third time this season, Real pulled close at the end of the match, but Houston had amassed too great a lead.

“We really should’ve made it not as interesting as it was,” said Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear. “Don’t get me wrong, my heart was racing for, like, the last eight minutes.”

Kyle Brown entered the match for Real in the 60th minute and scored his first career MLS goal in the 82nd minute to pull his club within one.

“It felt good to finally get my first goal,” Brown said. “I wish we could’ve gotten another one.”

Real’s defense often played out of position throughout the match — including the beginning of the second half when Houston scored two goals in 13 minutes.

“There’s got to be questions about why there are guys running completely free in the six-yard box on our goal,” said RSL head coach Jason Kreis.

Jaqua jump-started his terrific night early with a goal in the sixth minute. Corey Ashe crossed the ball right as Jaqua cut behind RSL defender Eddie Pope. Jaqua redirected Ashe’s pass into the net.

Real pulled even in the 18th minute when Fabian Espindola fought off a Dynamo defender. Espindola then whisked a shot from near the left baseline, across the goal and just inside the opposite post.

In the 28th minute, Houston’s Eddie Robinson headed home a Richard Mulrooney free-kick from nearly 45 yards out to give the home team a one-goal advantage.

Ashe and Jaqua started the second half in familiar fashion by hooking up for the second leg of Jaqua’s three-goal performance in the 48th minute.

“Luckily, this was my night,” Ashe said. “I’m happy that with my three assists we’re back in the win column.”

Ashe and Jaqua wrapped up their night by combining for a Dynamo striking once more. The 57th minute saw Ashe send a high cross that the 6-foot-3 Jaqua headed into the goal to cap off the hat trick.

“Getting the hat trick is neat,” Jaqua said. “I’m happy to do that.”

Carey Talley sparked Real in the 69th minute on a Javier Morales corner kick. Talley beat Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad to the sailing cross and headed the ball inside the near post.

Real’s comeback fell short, but the team is encouraged by its improved offensive play.

“That’s something that we’ve really been focused on: how we’re going to score more goals,” Kreis said. “I think one thing we can take away from this game and feel good about is that our players showed a lot of character.”

Despite the effort, Real still came up short. Houston retained its lead in the Western Conference after FC Dallas threatened to pull even after defeating Toronto FC 2-0 on Saturday.

Real is still 10 points behind the Colorado Rapids in the West, but has another chance to grab points on the road when it visits DC United on Wednesday.

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