You know what they say about not messing with Texas.
The Lone Star state is definitely not a place of fond memories for Real Salt Lake.
And perhaps no place has been less friendly during the last two years to the Utah side than Houston.
Sitting in prime position to gain points out of each of its last two trips to south eastern Texas, Real Salt Lake has receive a brisk slap to the face both times.
Salt Lake’s latest insult came just a few days ago when Houston capitalized on a 94th minute penalty kick to steal a 1-0 victory and two extra points.
“It’s a tough place to play. It’s not hot like that in Salt Lake but it’s definitely not an excuse,” Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. “We come here with the mindset that we are going to win or get a point. I have been a part of a lot of games where it has gone down to the dying minutes and they have ended up scoring in extra time. It’s tough place to go 90-plus minutes and stay focused in this heat. It’s something we are not used to.”
With Houston pressing forward at home, a gap opened up it the Real Salt Lake defense as the ball was floated forward to Macoumba Kandji. Rimando committed, coming off his line and charged forward, leaping in the air to stop the ball, but ended up plowing over Kandji and the referee quickly pointed to the spot.
“It’s one of those games where you do what you think is right,” Rimando said. “I don’t know if you call it a mistake. The ball is in the air, I’m coming in the air and not intending to hit Kandji, but it happens. He made a great run. We didn’t have any pressure on the ball and I committed. Once I committed, I had to go out. I didn’t want to get stuck in no-man’s-land. At the end of the day it’s a play I want to take back for sure and get these guys in the locker room a point back.”
And just like that, Salt Lake’s record in Texas dropped to 0-18-3.
Even more costly was that by failing to gain the point, RSL suddenly finds itself in third place on the Western Conference table after being passed by Seattle and could be in jeopardy of sliding further if it can’t regain form quickly when it returns to Major League Soccer action on Sept. 22.
“Right now the spirits are high from the efforts the guys put in,” Rimando said. “One play doesn’t give us a loss here. I think a lot of plays during the game could have determined the result today. We have a big game in Panama coming up and we have to focus on that. We are going to keep our heads high and move forward.”
And thankfully for Real, barring a postseason meeting, it can stay out of Texas for the rest of the year.
You can follow Justin Johnson on Twitter at: @jjohnson801 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.