SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Albert Rusnak scored two goals, including a penalty kick in the 10th minute of stoppage time, as Real Salt Lake won for just the second time on the road all season, 2-1 over Houston.
With the victory, RSL improves to 11-10-5 on the season, and moves into fourth place in the Western Conference playoff race.
“I’m over the moon right now,” head coach Mike Petke said. “It wasn’t an easy game. From the beginning, we took control. The game plan tonight was very specific like it always is. Tonight, it clicked as far as specifics that we wanted from our players, how we wanted to defend, where we wanted them to play the ball and capitalized in transition. I’m ecstatic for them to be honest with you.”
Real Salt Lake improved to 2-9-2 on the road, although it looked dire for most of the match after Oscar Boniek Garcia’s deflected goal in the 36th minute gave Houston a 1-0 lead.
Rusnak scored in the 93rd minute on a 20-yard strike off the right post to tie the score before Sebastian Saucedo drew a foul from Houston defender DaMarcus Beasley on the right side of the box. Beasley stuck out his right knee and made contact with the forward.
Rusnak converted his third PK in four tries this season with a shot down the middle past Joe Willis for his seventh goal.
Houston took the 1-0 lead due to a fortuitous bounce after Romell Quioto’s free kick was blocked by the wall. The ball went to Garcia for a 22-yard volley. His shot deflected off RSL defender Nick Besler past goalkeeper Andrew Putna.
Putna made his first Major League Soccer start and second appearance, having replaced Nick Rimando (hamstring) at halftime of a 2-0 defeat at Los Angeles FC on Wednesday.
“It’s not easy for a player like that to be thrown in last game in a hostile environment, where he made some nice saves and to come into this game,” Petke said. “I’m sure he felt the weight of the world on him. Everything from his inexperience to his age to taking over this game to coming in for the best goalkeeper of the history in this league, hands down. In the end, he did very well. We’re pleased for him.”
Putna made two saves and kept RSL in the match with stops on Quioto in the 67th and Mauro Manotas five minutes later.
Real Salt Lake wraps up a 3-game road stretch next Saturday at Colorado.