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Real Salt Lake 2014: Morales hat trick helps club win for first time at Houston

Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert.
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

It was a night of firsts in sunny, humid Houston, Texas on Sunday, May 11. Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales scored the fastest goal in club history with a nasty chip just 15 seconds into the match at BBVA Compass Stadium -- en route to his first-ever hat trick as a pro.

By the time Morales had completed his hat trick on a penalty kick late on, Real Salt Lake had secured another first. A 5-2 victory over the Houston Dynamo gave the claret and cobalt visitors their first-ever win in Houston.

After Morales’ delectable early goal, he doubled his scoring tally side-footing a header from teammate Ned Grabavoy towards the Dynamo goal, propelling RSL forward to a 2-0 lead in the 17th minute of action. Houston fought back with a goal in the 22nd minute to narrow RSL’s lead to 2-1.

A diving header by RSL forward Alvaro Saborio gave RSL a 3-1 cushion in the 32nd minute and that’s how the game stood going into halftime. Even being down a man after a Dynamo player was sent off in the first half, Houston still had life going into the second half of action.

“I was a little worried there for a little bit. I thought the passes were out there to complete. We kind of made a couple weird choices,“ RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said at the post-game press conference. "But then I think we settled down a little bit and started to re-control the game and kill it off.”

The Dynamo proved they weren’t done, scoring a goal in the 52nd minute -- and would have leveled if not for RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando’s reaction save on a Dynamo penalty kick. But RSL iced this game in the 78th when midfielder Luke Mulholland followed up a shot he took on frame, racing toward the end line.

Mulholland looked up and TV replays showed he was at an impossible angle. But, just before his cleats bounded over the end line he chopped the ball back against his topsy-turvy body and spun it into the far side netting for a 4-2 RSL lead. On a night in humid Houston when everything could have gone wrong for RSL, it didn’t.

Real Salt Lake had a commanding advantage in possession on the evening, holding a 59-41 edge over the Dynamo. It marked the second game in a row that RSL was able to keep the ball away from home.

And Morales capped off his magical evening with a penalty kick goal in the 89th, awarded when substitute Devon Sandoval was tripped by Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall inside the six-yard-box. The Argentine maestro walked to the spot, approached the ball with malice, then stutter-stepped before he stroked the ball back against his body, spinning the Adidas Brazuca to his left, opposite of where Hall was diving.

Real Salt Lake is still unbeaten on the season. It now heads home after a wildly successful two-game road swing, back to Rio Tinto Stadium where it will face rival Colorado later this week.

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