Football in the snow is great fun. If you’re either a kid out playing in it, your team is winning in it, or you’re tuned in from afar as a neutral watching a match in a nice warm house.
When it’s your team playing in farcical conditions, it’s just ridiculous. When it’s in a league that has ambitions to be one of the top ones in the world, it’s just ludicrous and embarrassing. This was a game that would have been abandoned in most other countries.
You can’t fully blame the snow for the Whitecaps capitulation in Utah. Sandy it certainly wasn’t, as the depth of the snow piled up during the second half. It was the same for both sides after all and Real Salt Lake adapted to it much better with a team that seemed more capable and more up for it from the first whistle.
In the end three second half goals handed the Whitecaps another defeat, with Slovakian playmaker Albert Rusnák the difference maker with a goal and two assists, as Yura Movsisyan and Luke Mulholland killed the tie off late on with two goals in a four minute spell.
Carl Robinson rang the changes, six from last weekend’s win over LA, surprising everyone with a 3-5-2 formation that saw three centre backs (Tim Parker, Kendall Waston, Christian Dean) and three DMs (Matias Laba, Tony Tchani, and Russell Teibert) start the first half, yet saw them pulled all over the place and only lucky to hang on through some truly woeful RSL finishing.
Robinson has always said he would only play 3-5-2 if he had the right players to do it. Tonight showed that team on the park weren’t the right players. It was a dreadful performance for the most part with too many players posted missing.
The home side started the livelier, but it was an incredibly open and end to end game, with both defences stretched as the snow came down, but neither team seemed to have their shooting boots on.
The usual Cap killer Joao Plata had two excellent chances in the opening seven minutes but couldn’t get either on target to test David Ousted.
The ‘Caps had their first chance in the 14th minute when Marcel de Jong whipped in a tasty first time low cross from the left, but Fredy Montero just couldn’t get on to it.
RSL responded with a great chance for Yura Movsisyan which he hit wide.
Plata had another gilt-edged chance in the 24th minute when the wee man got goal side of De Jong but couldn’t connect on a dangerous cross to the back post.
As the snow got heavier, the conditions got slippier and Ousted was lucky to see a fumbled shot from Rusnák fly over his hands but around the post for a corner.
Vancouver must have headed in to half time wondering how many rabbits feet they were carrying when RSL squandered another excellent opportunity after Movsisyan blasted over from six yards out. But the ‘Caps luck held and they headed in with the teams scoreless.
The snow started to come down hard during the break and continued for the second half, turning the pitch from green to pure white and become frankly unplayable. But this game was in America, so even though the orange ball clearly wasn’t running, this game was going on.
It continued to be end to end but the conditions weren’t making for pretty football.
RSL were coping far better in them though and they took the lead in the 54th minute when the ‘Caps were caught with two at the back and Albert Rusnák, who put in a Man of the Match performance in the second half, slotted home the opener.
Vancouver tried to press forward as the conditions worsened, but they had no real goal threats, despite bringing on a couple of attacking subs, and you already felt it was game over.
It basically was when RSL made it two in the 74th minute when Movsisyan showed some nice footwork in the box to make space on Waston and drill the ball home low past his former teammate in Denmark, Ousted.
Four minutes later and the ‘Caps woes were added to when Ousted flapped at a corner coming in, de Jong missed a header to clear, and Mulholland fired home into the empty net.
There was little of note after that. Vancouver simply weren’t at the races from a formation and team that was always second best. The conditions certainly can’t be blamed as it was the same for both sides, and with the first half chances RSL missed, the ‘Caps can consider themselves fortunate not to be on the end of their worst ever MLS defeat.
FINAL SCORE: Real Salt Lake 3 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
SALT LAKE: Nick Rimando; Chris Wingert, Danilo Acosta, Chris Schuler, Demar Phillips; Albert Rusnák, Kyle Beckerman (Omar Holness 89), Luke Mulholland; Brooks Lennon, Yura Movsisyan (Luis Silva 81), Joao Plata (Sebastian Saucedo 61) [Subs Not Used: Matt VanOekel, Reagan Dunk, Justin Schmidt, Ricardo Velazco]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Tim Parker, Kendall Waston, Christian Dean (Cristian Techera 59); Jake Nerwinski, Tony Tchani (Mauro Rosales 59), Matías Laba (Andrew Jacobson 78), Russell Teibert, Marcel de Jong; Nicolás Mezquida, Fredy Montero [Substitutes Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Sheanon Williams, Marco Bustos, Kyle Greig]
On the result:
“I think they adapted to the conditions better. I don’t think the football was an ideal spectacle after that happens. All credit to them. They managed to get the first goal. I thought the first goal was always going to have an impact on the game, and obviously the second and third we were chasing the game.”
On formation changes in the lineup:
“We looked at a different system based on the personnel we had. It worked to an extent. I think there were areas where we could improve on, we haven’t had too many days to work on it. But we didn’t take our chances. We didn’t put our shots on goal. Even when the snow was coming down very heavily, we were unable to hit the target and cause Nicky [Rimando] any problems at all. That’s what they did. Credit to them, they get the three points. We’ll deal with it. Hopefully we don’t get snowed in.”
On his team’s defensive effort:
“They got the first goal. I don’t think we defended well enough. Big center backs weren’t able to turn in the snow, which makes it a little bit difficult. They managed to shoot through Christian Dean’s legs and beat David [Ousted] at the near post. We went to a slightly different formation to get back into the game. We got our chances but we were unable to take them. Chasing the game, we gave up a second and third goal.”
On his conversation with former teammate Mike Petke:
“Mikey’s comments were ‘Well that is football.’ Maybe we can go sledding tomorrow. I’m pleased for him. Obviously, disappointed that we didn’t get anything out of the game. Mikey will come here and do a good job.”
On the field conditions:
“How can it hold up? It’s three, four, five inches of snow, and the game is still going ahead. So it’s not ideal.”
On the result:
“This was not so much about soccer as handling the conditions. They did that better than us today. They got their goals, got themselves ahead, and handled it well.”
On playing former teammate Yura Movsisyan:
“We said, ‘Hi’ after the game as we do every time. I know him and his family very well. He’s always happy when he gets one by me. Today he’ll win it. But I’ll get him back next time.”
On the goals:
“We leave two guys in the box and let them turn, two very, very skilled players. We let them get shots off. That obviously can’t happen. Just trying to deal with everything out there with the snow, the long balls, however it skipped off the snow or didn’t. We just weren’t good enough to handle those things.”
On moving forward:
“We need to get home from this. We’ll see if we get snowed in here, I wonder what we do. We need to get home and assess what we need to do on Friday against the Sounders.”
REAL SALT LAKE
On what was being implemented in this game:
“Well talk about wearing both hats. In the first half, just like I was saying before, I say some very positives based off the things we had initially talked about in one week. And I saw that it didn’t work at times, but the most important thing we saw tonight was that in one week the certain little tweaks that we want to make, they took it and they implemented it and they tried to implement it. Second half was all about grit and heart and just desire. Soccer goes out the window, I mean I am yelling like a lunatic from the sideline telling them to possess the ball and my coaches are looking at me like I have three heads. There was no way to play in that second half. No way, but they got the goals in the second half and it’s amazing.”
On positive reactions for the fans:
“I didn’t even hear it to be honest with you; I think I might have come out a little late. Obviously we wanted to play for our supporters. It is a huge part of what we do and the respect that we have for them coming out, especially tonight, is amazing. I have said it throughout the last 10-12 years coming here, the support that I have seen them show this team and to be a part of that now is amazing. I will say it again, I said it a couple of times we won three-nothing tonight, if we would have lost three-nothing tonight it does not mean anything either way for next game or the game after. This is a building block, stepping stones. And tonight the first half was very positive and the second half very positive in a hard way and we got the result.”
On Acosta’s performance:
“Aside from the first 10 minutes maybe, five to 10 minutes, I thought he was big time for us. Not that he wasn’t in the first five-ten minutes, he needed to get those nerves out. He needed to get that young energy, nervous energy out of his system because he was a bit overbearing on the fouls and then on the flip side he was a little late to step out. The rest of the game, he saved us on a couple occasions and you see the number of times that he opened his body up to play and cut it back in. For a young kid like that, in a game like this, to not only do that but try those things it is impressive. But he has to battle still he has a long way to go, it doesn’t mean anything moving forward, he still has to prove himself week-in and week-out and he will get minutes then.”
On the weather conditions:
“Growing up, of course I did, one playoff game with the Red Bulls when I was an assistant coach I think aside from that no and it has a huge effect on the game. Like I said, soccer goes out the window at a certain point. Every pass is slowed up, it is like you are building a snowman when the snow is building on the ball and guys are slipping all over the place. You can’t really see through it so then it just comes down to who wants it more, I guess. In the first half as the snow was starting to fall and it wasn’t that bad there was some very good stuff from us and there is still many things we have to work on but overall I am very happy for the players.”
On adrenaline to start RSL career:
“It probably was a lot less than it was the last ten minutes of the game. But, I am a passionate guy, I get adrenaline all the time. My cup of coffee is not made right at the diner and my adrenaline goes through the roof so it is just who I am. It is a great feeling. It is mostly for the players so this is a great night for them.”
On what will be memorable from this night:
“That my toes are frostbitten and I had to have my pants tumbled dried at halftime. Little things I will remember. Oh, and the three-nothing win. I will remember that too.”
On playing in the snow:
“We don’t get blessed with that white powder snow back in Preston, England. If it snows, it’s just straight sleet for us, it’s miserable, so definitely remember something cold. Cold mid-week and training sessions, but I can’t remember the last time, yeah, nothing like that. I was wearing short sleeves. I don’t like to wear under(shirts). I feel restricted. I got cold. My arms and my forearms felt so numb and tense. None of the teams have experience with playing in the snow and how the ball holds up, so at that point it’s all about being just willing to fight for it. I’m just delighted that we were able to get our first win of the season and hopefully we can build on that now.”
On the corner kick that lead to Luke’s goal:
“Usually I’m just chilling at the top of the box. If anything gets knocked out to me I try and put it back into the danger area. I just felt like going in for it, and the ball was coming close towards me and the kid just kind of palmed it in my direction and I just tried to get whatever I could on it to try and redirect it back to goal and it ended up just being my knee, kneeing it back into the far corner. I’m delighted to get the goal, but more than happy to get three goals and a clean sheet in the first win of the season, so it feels good.”
On snapping the winless streak:
“I think it’s just a good reaction. It’s the reaction you needed. Going to Minnesota we all knew it was going to be a difficult game, because everyone was talking about how they conceded 18 goals in four games and how they were there for the taking and then we started off great and then with injury to Aaron Maund, we had to reshuffle the pack and we gave them sort of a chance to get back into the game and once we lost the lead it was all them. So it was a great reaction from last week and all week training, the intensity. It goes back to what the gaffer said tonight. It was just a lot of heart and desire that goes into the win, and I felt like we had been playing a lot of good football this season, minus the Minnesota second half and the first half in Chicago, but eventually the gates open and you can get your win, so hopefully we can look at the film and go from that, but I don’t know how helpful it’s going to be with the highlights of the snow, but definitely focusing. We’re going to enjoy this tonight. A bit of rest and recovery then the next couple of day and hit the ground running on Tuesday, because you know Colorado that’s a tough place to go to, so I wouldn’t mind finishing off the next week with a win.”
On if he had played in the snow before:
“No. I come from a pretty cold country. And winter gets really cold but these conditions today have definitely been the craziest that I have ever played in. The first half, the wind was freezing. Then the second half was like sticky snow that didn’t get away from the field. It made it difficult to play. But we scored three goals in the second half with those hard conditions to play. And we created many chances in the first half to score. Overall it’s a great team performance.”
On capitalizing on the conditions:
“First half we set the tone for the whole game. We had many chances. We could have scored two, three easy goals. That would have been a different story in the second half. But what we said to each other in the locker room was to keep going. We’re going to make more and more chances. We were so hungry to win. Hopefully this is a fresh start for the season.”
On getting his first goal in MLS:
“The earlier you score your first goal in the new league, in a new team, the pressure just drops a little bit off you. I’m an attacking player so my job is to score goals and to also make assists. So I’m very glad I scored a goal today, my first goal and that I helped my team to win.”
On the pass from Plata to set up his goal:
“It was a great pass and perhaps it would have looked even better if there wasn’t any snow on the field to slow me down. But it was a great pass and assist from Joao.”
On wet conditions:
“In every game the first goal is very crucial. And especially in those conditions in the second half. To score the first goal is really important. Then after that maybe their style has to change a little bit. There were more direct balls. But to be honest with you there’s not a lot you can play in that snow. The ball gets stuck and it slows down. Sometimes the right pass is the wrong choice in those conditions. The first goal was very good, and then to score to more goals it was great.”
On familiarity with playing in snow:
“It was difficult. You know, these games, you can never get used to it. I think the first half was worse than the second half, just because the first half was much colder. Once the snow started coming in and the weather kind of changed, we got better. It was tough for both teams. Definitely more for them than for us. We kept our composure. We had a lot of chances in the first half, we just didn’t get lucky. But we came out in the second half knowing we were going to get those chances. We just had to put them away. I think that defensively we did a great job at keeping the zero, which at this point for me, is probably the most important thing–to keep the zero and get some goals.”
On playing direct in the snow:
“Sometimes you have to realize it’s going to be tough playing soccer in this condition. The ball really bites down on the ground. It was just the smarter thing to do–just to go direct and put it in their half and win the ball there and go there in their half. Keep it as far away from our goal as possible.”
On Albert Rusnák’s performance:
“I mean, his vision, you give the guy space. He’s spaced higher up closer to me. That’s what he does. He’s a quality player. I think he’s still getting used to the league, so I think that today was just a little bit of what he can do. Especially if he was this good in this weather, imagine what he can do on a beautiful day. He just plays with confidence. Everybody on team did a fantastic job trying to get the ball to him, get it to his feet where he can turn and go at the defender. So I think it was just an overall great performance by everybody.”
On getting the win:
“Like I said last week, it’s a new season and we get the win we get the shutout but at the end of the day, I’ve got to give a big shoutout to our fans. They were just amazing. We were running around and we were cold, I can imagine the fans just sitting there and being cold. Even with this weather, they were so supportive. I think it’s just the most rewarding thing for us to do for the fans is to reward them for their efforts. To reward them for sticking around until the last minute. So I just want to say thank you from the whole team, from the whole club, thank you to the fans that stuck out there and froze way more than we did. This is the way this fan base is. This is the way they’ve been. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to come and play in front of them because that’s how great they are. Not many stadiums, not many fans in the league, would have stuck around in weather like this.”
On scoring his goals:
“As a striker, you want to score goals. There’s a lot of pressure on myself. Nobody puts more pressure on me than myself. It’s definitely rewarding for hard work, getting the goals. At the end of the day, getting goals doesn’t mean much if you’re losing. It felt twice as good today to win the game and get the goals. I feel very proud of our team grinding it out. Just playing until the end and finishing our chances, but at the same time keeping it zero at home front of our great fans. Just overall a good, good day.”