SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake travels to Texas on Saturday, looking to break a long winless streak and facing the three H's — Houston, heat and humidity.
Whatever the reason — maybe it's another H, hex — RSL has never won in Houston. They've managed only a single point on the road against the Dynamo, losing eight and tying one in nine appearances.
The weather in Houston is “definitely a factor,” RSL defender Nat Borchers told reporters. “It's not the end-all, be-all, but it's definitely factor.
“You live in a climate like this and then you go some of these places where it's hot and humid and you're not used to it. You make poor decisions when you're tired, and that weather definitely gets you tired.”
RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar prefers to look on the bright side.
“I'm glad it's not going to be 100 degrees there,” he said with a laugh. “I'm looking forward to that.”
Not 100, but not far off. The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the high 80s and humidity near 70 percent. Not bad for Texas, but about 30 degrees warmer and about 25 percent more humidity than what's expected in Salt Lake City on Sunday.
“Usually the conditions there are tough because it's very, very hot,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy told reporters. “Sometimes you have to alter your game plan a little bit.
“But in saying that, they've had a good team.”
RSL coaches and players went out of their way to make it clear it's not primarily the weather that poses a problem in Houston, it's the Dynamo.
“They're potent,” said Cassar, pointing out that Houston (4-4-2, 14 points) has scored four goals twice this season and is on a three-game unbeaten streak. “They're not a team that presses too high, so they sit back a little bit. And then get you when you're not expecting it.”
And that's exactly what has given RSL (4-0-5, 17 points) trouble this season. Including in the first half of their 3-2, come-from-behind win over Chicago, when Real “fell asleep a little bit on those two goals,” Grabavoy said.
Cassar pointed to Houston's “talented” midfielders Boniek Garcia, Brad Davis and Andrew Driver and forwards Will Bruin and Giles Barnes.
“That front five right there is very dangerous,” he said. “Very good on the ball. They can shoot from distance. As always, dangerous on set plays, so it's something we're going to have to focus on.
“But I also feel that they have areas we can get at them, and that's what we're going to focus on.”
Last season, Salt Lake ended two other long winless streaks. On June 29, it beat Toronto 1-0 on the road for its first-ever victory in Canada. On July 13, the Claret-and-Cobalt beat Dallas 3-0 in Frisco, which was not only their first win on the road in Dallas but their first (and only) win in the state of Texas.
Winning in Houston would break another hex.
“It's just another thing that the guys look forward to stopping,” Cassar said. “But it's not something we're concentrating on.”