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Heat continue struggle

Heat continue struggle

Loses to Houston 2-1

By Zach Smith Laredo Morning Times

Follow @Zach_Smith_ on Twitter for the latest news on the Heat and other local sports.

Email: ZSmith@LMTOnline.com

By the time the final whistle finally blew late Saturday night, everybody was a little cranky.

The Heat trailed Houston 2-1 after 61 minutes before lightning got too close and the game had to be halted. More than an hour later, the two teams were back on the field to put the game to bed.

Laredo had its chances down the stretch but the score stayed the same as the Heat suffered their fourth loss in a row.

“Frustration is hard but you've got to just put a smile on your face and keep working hard,” forward Dan Johns said. “Sooner or later hard work is going to pay off. Once again I feel like tonight we outworked them and outplayed them at times. That’s football.”

Losing Saturday doesn’t bode well for the postseason chances of the Heat (3-5-2, 11 points) with three games to go. Laredo isn’t in a playoff spot and both the Mississippi (4-2-2, 14) and Midland (5-2-1, 16) are ahead in the USL PDL standings.

Since before Laredo started a seven-game road trip more than a month ago there was some continuity in the starting lineup. The starting 11 featured no players making any sort of debut for the first time since June 6 in Mississippi.

George Kelley was one of the hottest players in the league after scoring five goals in the last four games and it took just over five minutes for him to find the net again. He muscled his way around the Heat center backs and shot it far post, out of the reach of a diving Jorge Ortega.

Yair Hernandez evened things up off a free kick in the 31st minute. A long injury delay led to a free kick for the Heat from the right side. After the Houston keeper missed the save on a dive, Hernandez was there to tap in the deflected ball. The goal ended a span of 315 scoreless minutes for the Heat.

The Dutch Lions responded less than a minute later. A hard foul in the box led to a Houston penalty kick. Ortega — who had saved two PKs already this season — guessed the right way but Houston’s Victor Parreiras put just enough juice on it to get it past him.

When the Heat came out in the second half, their lineup portrayed a team with its season on the line. When forwards Salvador Luna and Jorge Soto came on early in the half, there were five forwards on the field for Laredo. Soon after, the lighting got too close and both teams headed to the locker room.

When the two teams came out over an hour later around  11:15 p.m. for the rest of the game, the pace of play picked up. Needing a goal, the Heat were on the front foot for the first five minutes but Houston took advantage and played crosses in toward Ortega.

The referee started to lose control within the last 10 minutes of the game when Houston started fouling Heat players to slow down their attack. He handed out four yellow cards over the course of five minutes before stoppage time.

Laredo looked like it got an equalizer in the 89th minute when a low cross deflected off midfielder Leon Taylor and onto the top of the net. But the ref said it went out of bounds. Not a minute later, the Houston coach was tossed from the game and Taylor was shown a straight red card, meaning his miss Laredo’s next game against Midland.

“We had to be chippy and go at it,” Johns said. “We had to win our first and second tackles and they had to do the same. They foul you when you’re going through. It’s smart but it also frustrates our team. Play is constantly stopping and we couldn’t get a rhythm.”

This wasn’t the first time weather has changed Laredo’s plan this season. The opening game of the year on the road against the Dutch Lions was postponed due to flooded fields in Houston and what became the first game of the season against Mississippi ended 0-0 at halftime on May 23.

Laredo has three more games to try and sneak into the playoffs, two of which are against the Sockers, who took over the division lead by beating the Brilla 2-1 Saturday. The Heat have 12 days off before hosting Midland on July 10 and again in the season finale on July 16, with a game against Houston sandwiched in between.

“The last six games have meant everything,” Johns said. “We had to win them and get the points. We have to win them all to have a chance. Our fingers are crossed that other teams are beating each other up.”