(Photo Credit: @RealSaltLake/Twitter)
27 days is a long break to have during a season. Too long or ideal to get things ironed out for the Vancouver Whitecaps? That was one of the big questions heading into their clash with Real Salt Lake at their home away from in Sandy, Utah on Friday evening.
At the end of the first half, it looked like another case of the Whitecaps coming back from a break looking a little flat, trailing 1-0 to a Damir Kreilach goal two minutes before the interval. But they rallied to tie things up through Brian White, and had chances to take the lead.
But with the game heading into stoppage time, and a share of the spoils on the cards, RSL hit twice through Erik Holt and another from Kreilach to come away with the 3-1 win and leave the ‘Caps rueing what could have been and what they are badly missing in the team.
Marc Dos Santos rang the changes for this one, some enforced. The key ones being the Whitecaps debut up front of Brian White, and with Bruno Gaspar and Jake Nerwinski both injured, Javain Brown getting the start at right back. Michael Baldisimo came in for a welcome start in the midfield, as Vancouver went with a 4-3-3 formation.
The Whitecaps had a torrid time to start this one with Brown picking up a booking just three minutes in, following a hefty challenge, and RSL having a couple of looks at goal, the best of those coming in the 6th minute when Anderson Julio streaked in on goal but Max Crepeau came up with a big stop to dispossess him.
Vancouver finally settled soon after, but Crepeau was called into action again in the 18th minute to deny Rubio Rubin.
The ‘Caps were enjoying far more possession than the home side, but weren’t really posing too much of a goal threat. That was reserved for RSL, who looked dangerous on most of their forays forward, and a last ditch block prevented Albert Rusnak from getting a powerful shot on goal just past the half hour mark.
White was getting absolutely no service up front, and must have been wondering if this is his fate now for the next little, or long, while.
It was no real surprise that the home side opened the scoring two minutes before half time, perhaps the nature of it, with the always dangerous Kreilach firing home from just outside of the box, with the aid of an unlucky deflection off Erik Godoy that took the ball past the wrong-footed Crepeau.
Swish & Flick 💫
Albert Rusnak with the perfect touch for Dami! pic.twitter.com/wgYe4QQosl
— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) June 19, 2021
And that was how the teams headed into the interval, with the Whitecaps still failing to have found the scoresheet in the first half of any of their MLS games this season. A shocking stat that really needs to change if they are to make ground in the standings you feel.
Vancouver certainly started the second half livelier, as has been their way this season, and Janio Bikel fired a shot across goal past the far post in the opening minutes.
And the Whitecaps got themselves back on level terms in the 54th minute when Brown sent a dangerous ball into the back post and White fired the ball home with the aid of RSL defender Aaron Herrera, showing the goalscorer’s finishing that made the ‘Caps shell out the GAM to get him here.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) June 19, 2021
RSL picked up the pressure again after the goal, but it was Vancouver who had the best looks on goal, with Brown having two strong headers from corners and Andy Rose crashing a header off the bar from a lofted Cristian Gutierrez free kick.
The game was flowing end to end now, with both sides sending in some dangerous crosses, but no-one able to find the deadly touch for the go-ahead goal.
The Whitecaps were dealt a blow when they lost Gutierrez to an injury as the minutes ticked down, which with their already perilous looking full back situation, was one of the last things they needed.
As the game headed into seven minutes of stoppage time, both sides probably felt they had what it took to get the winner, as it ended up it was Real Salt Lake who found the back of the net. Twice.
Two minutes into the seven, Herrera sent in a long throw from the right, which saw Erik Holt rise above the Whitecaps defence to back flick the ball into the net, past the despairing lunge of Brown, and put the home side 2-1 up.
Three minutes later and they had a third, when Justin Meram sent in a beautiful cross to the far post and a diving Kreilach met it superbly to head home.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 19, 2021
Certainly not a scoreline the Whitecaps deserved, but their lack of first half penetration, wasted chances in the second, and inability to see out the game all combined to signal another loss.
This wasn’t a bad performance from the ‘Caps, well in parts anyway. They had their chances to take the lead but this is not a team inspiring a lot of confidence right now. There’s pieces there, but the jigsaw contents aren’t matching the finished picture.
And it doesn’t get any easier for them either. LA Galaxy come a calling on Wednesday night followed by a trip to Seattle next weekend. It’s a brutal spell coming up and you fear it’s one that without the necessary reinforcements is going to leave the Whitecaps at the bottom of the standings looking up and with a very tough task ahead to making the playoffs if, and when, they eventually get to return to their proper home.
FINAL SCORE: Real Salt Lake 3 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
SALT LAKE: David Ochoa; Aaron Herrera, Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva (Erik Holt 68), Andrew Brody; Nick Besler, Pablo Ruiz (Everton Luiz 80); Albert Rusnak, Damir Kreilach, Anderson Julio (Justin Meram 68); Rubio Rubin (Douglas Martinez 90+6) [Substitutes not used: Zac MacMath, Ashtone Morgan, Donny Toia, Maikel Chang, Justin Portillo]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crépeau; Javain Brown, Érik Godoy, Andy Rose, Cristian Gutierrez (Russell Teibert 84); Janio Bikel, Michael Baldisimo, Caio Alexandre; Cristian Dájome, Brian White (Lucas Cavallini 61), Déiber Caicedo (Derek Cornelius 86) [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Ranko Veselinović, Theo Bair, Leonard Owusu, Ryan Raposo, Patrick Metcalfe]
Possession: RSL 59.1% – VAN 40.9%
Shots: RSL 10 – VAN 13
Shots on Goal: RSL 6 – VAN 2
Saves: RSL 1 – VAN 3
Fouls: RSL 11 – VAN 8
Offsides: RSL 0 – VAN 2
Corners: RSL 4 – VAN 2
MARC DOS SANTOS
On the 2-1 Goal:
“What’s disappointing is the way they get the 2-1 is in a play that we were very aware [of], we worked a lot. Everybody knew that was coming, we defended a couple of them, they were not able to break us and get dangerous shots in the second half, but then the ball from the throw in is disappointing. It’s too bad to concede, especially the goal in that throw in. That changed the game.”
On second half adjustments:
“We adjusted the way we were putting pressure. We tried to use our wingers in the first half on their centre backs and in the second half we went with our midfielders to put that pressure. So I just think that that helped the team in the moments of pressure.”
On Gutierrez’ injury:
“The injury of Guti destabilized a little bit what we wanted to do, because then we didn’t have a natural left back. With Bruno out and Jake out we had to be careful with our shape there. We brought Rusty first and then Derek to close that left side.
“It made us change tactically, what we wanted to do, and that’s something that I’ll definitely question: if we could have had another right back in that moment, and maybe put Javain left back. But again, in the game, everything happens fast.”
On returning from the hiatus:
“We knew the first half would be average, everybody coming back from three weeks [off]. We had a tough time in the pressure from the front, but then we were slowly able to grow into the game. Then in the second half we were able to adjust some things, we were able to build, we were able to have possession, to press better from the front. So we were seeing growth.”
Thoughts on the match:
“I can’t say I feel good. The result wasn’t good. It’s not about an assist or me getting a second start. It’s really not good for us to lose like that. I think the team really fights, we played really well, but unfortunately it’s part of the sport. But one thing I have to say, I believe in this team, I believe that we are going to do great. It’s just little stuff that we have to fix right now.”
Thoughts on the late goals:
“I mean, definitely we have to look into it, but I can’t blame anyone. I can’t say it’s one mistake, it’s just unfortunate what happened, and we have to just go back to the drawing board and try to improve on it.”
On playing in three consecutive matches as a rookie:
“The minutes are important, but I try to improve each and every day, I try to learn from the experienced players on the team. Obviously, anything could happen, I wouldn’t say because I’m a rookie. I’m learning, I’m trying to improve each and every day, I’m trying to work hard, work hard for the team not only me.”
“So frustrated, first and foremost, to lose a game in that way. I thought overall it was pretty back and forth, fairly even, and then second half, I actually thought we came out and totally deserved our goal. Good passages of play. We’re obviously a real threat on set pieces. A little bit more quality in those moments and we can probably take the lead and go 2-1 up, it becomes a very different game.”
On the late stages:
“The game definitely changed a little bit when we lost Guti. We changed shape at that point. A lot of stoppage time and those are grueling minutes, away from home, crowd on top of them. Those are moments that our group needs to learn from and be a little bit more solid. To lose such a tightly contested game off a throw-in like that, which we knew was a threat. In the first half, we didn’t deal with it all that well. Kreilach is very good in the air. In the second half, we adjusted a little bit and did a really good job with it, and they had multiple throw-ins from that side. To lose the game like that just stings.”
On the second half:
“In the second half, we came out and had a lot of good passages of play. In the 4-3-3, I thought we found Caio in some good pockets of space on the left. When you have Deiber running at players like that and cutting in from the left, I think he can become even more dangerous. And so there was a lot we can take from it. Obviously, those moments at the end of the game, when you’re in stoppage time and feeling like you potentially could take all three points, and then not getting any, it’s tough to take right now.
Thoughts on Brian White:
“I want to make sure I mention Brian White and his work rate, especially in the first 15 minutes of the second half before he went off. I thought he was fantastic and did his job so well of being a target, making the right runs, holding the ball, playing it, bouncing off and first time keeping it for us, allowing the defence to push up our lines, and then fully deserved his goal.”
REAL SALT LAKE
On Holt’s game-winning goal:
“The group responded well as a whole. They kept going. For 25 minutes, Vancouver was very good there at the start of the second half with everything and caught us a little off guard – which shouldn’t happen. But it does, the opponent at times gets the momentum and they have nothing to lose – they’re chasing the game. And then we put ourselves in those positions. Credit to Meram. Credit to Erik who came in, and Everton. I thought they added energy to the group. And then I felt like we were giving trouble with the long throw-in on Aaron’s side since the beginning of the game. When you get towards the end of the game, you throw more numbers up. Erik put himself in a good spot and I’m so excited for him and happy for him. He’s put himself there and got a game-winner at an important time and got us the three points which right now is very important to us.”
On why he subbed Erik Holt into the game:
“The yellow card (to Marcelo Silva). They were bringing in Cavalini. Watching a lot of tape on him, he’s a physical player. I think any coach would have leaned him towards that side and they did. I think they were going to try and pick on Marcelo and try to draw something. And they had momentum. We didn’t want to put ourselves in a situation where we go down a man. We went with Erik. We are confident with Erik and he responded well. It’s not easy going into these games. The worry that you always have is the momentum and how they are going to help. Today our three guys – Justin Meram, Erik Holt and Everton – they added a buzz. When Everton came in I think there was a little more energy in the stadium. The fans applauded him and got more into the game and we needed that. We needed that extra belief so we could push through the hard moments of the game.”
On scoring late:
“The subs came and added some energy. The fans were amazing. They were loud today. Thank you, fans. I felt that Vancouver was very good in the second half and they put us under. We were very good in the first half. In the last 15 minutes we were the better team – we were pushing, we were creating. We got the go-ahead goal and then a fantastic third goal from Meram deciding to cross the perfect ball. We talked about the second post being on in this game and he put it in there. We had Rubio and Damir attack it and when you have numbers attack any cross, it’s always trouble for the opponent and we got a goal out of it.”
On getting three points:
“I’m happy for the group. I’m happy for Albert – I thought he had a very good game and gave a great assist to Damir. I’m happy for Damir – that guy is a goal-scoring machine. We talked about getting him in the finishing phase where he is most dangerous. He puts a lot of responsibility on himself and he was in great attacking positions today. I’m happy for the guys. This is one of those culture-building, team-building type of games where you do well and the opponent responds and then you get into a little sparring match and it’s back and forth and it’s not pretty. The response of the guys, that’s where you build and develop as a team. Now we know and there’s belief that if you get caught in moments and still win a game. It’s fantastic to see that. I’m excited for the guys. They deserved it. They’ve been training hard. They keep grinding.”
On the feeling of earning his first MLS goal:
“I can’t even put it into words, I can’t believe it. I had an opportunity against Nashville to help win the game there and I’m so happy I could tonight. I’m just so happy, so humbled and proud of the team. I can’t explain it.”
On the creation of the goal itself:
“Originally I wasn’t even planning on getting in the box and Freddy [Juarez] was calling me ‘Hey! Get in the box! Get in the Box!’ and I saw some space and I thought, I’m just going to try and flick this back post and into that direction and hopefully make something happen. Super happy it went in.”
On the team’s ability to comeback:
“We are a pretty resilient team. We’ve had a bunch of ties, consecutively here, and we’re really close to putting it all together. It’s a long season and we continue to build off each game and get better. At times in this game we were not as good as we thought we could be playing, but we are just resilient. One play at a time. Proud of the team.”
On getting the win:
“Anytime we can get three points, especially at home, we’re going to be happy about it. Now it’s all about concentrating on the game in Seattle next week and after that a game against Houston. Overall the most important this is that we found a way to win and that’s what it’s all about. We’re moving forward and we’ll look to see where we made mistakes, especially in the second half because we didn’t want to make those mistakes. That’s part of the game and like I said that the most important thing we did tonight is find a way to get the three points.”
On Justin Meram’s assist to him:
“It was a perfect ball so I didn’t have a difficult job to do. It was a great assist and that’s what Meram does well all day long. Full credit to him and the whole team because it’s all about the team and it’s all about and we showed it today. Overall it was a good game and this is how we want to react going into our second game this week against Seattle and then again against Houston.”
On the relentless attack at the end:
“That’s all about mentality. Before what has happened to us like the San Jose game is that you don’t want to do the same mistake which we unfortunately did early in the second half. But then we found a way. It was a great response and sometimes you lose the game in the last minute and sometimes you don’t. Today it was a bit of luck on our side and I think we deserved to win tonight. In the first half we had three or four clear chances that unfortunately didn’t find the back of the net. In the second half we deserved to get the three points and we’re happy to score the goals that we did.”