When you lose a game of football because the opposition was simply better, you can live with that. Somewhat. It still pisses you off and ruins your weekend, but there’s at least some solace there. When you lose because of your mistakes, that’s frustrating. But when you lose three points because of the incompetency of the officials, simulation, or a combination of both, then that’s just anger inducing.
Which takes us to Sandy, Utah and Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday afternoon. Albert Rusnák grabbed the only goal of the game, hitting home a 21st minute penalty, earned by Corey Baird’s dive in the box, which went unreviewed by VAR.
The controversial decision was not only a key point in the match, it turned out to be the difference maker between the two teams, as the ‘Caps started their 2019 season with a second straight loss.
Marc Dos Santos made three changes to the team that lost the season opener at home to Minnesota, with PC coming in at left back for Derek Cornelius, Andy Rose making his Whitecaps debut in place of Felipe in the midfield, and Lucas Venuto getting his first MLS start on the wing instead of Lass Bangoura, who drifted badly out of last week’s match.
The RSL pitch was in incredible condition considering it had been covered in snow overnight and fans had helped get it clear. No orange ball needed for this one and a playing surface that would be far more beneficial to the passing game Dos Santos wants his Whitecaps to play.
Both teams moved the ball around well in the early going, but the Whitecaps had the first real chance six minutes in when Inbeom Hwang’s long ranger was touched around post by RSL keeper Nick Rimando.
Rimando had to make another save ten minutes later when a stretch Rose tried to direct an effort on goal.
Referee Drew Fischer and the Whitecaps don’t have a happy history and the Canadian official was at the centre of a huge game changing controversy in the 20th minute when he awarded RSL a penalty after Baird went down in the box with Jake Nerwinski in close contact.
Replays showed no contact and what looked like clear simulation, with Baird already on his way down as he brushed against Nerwinski’s leg, yet despite the video official reviewing the incident, VAR did not get used to overturn the decision. Absolutely shocking, and a decision which makes you wonder the whole point of having the system when it doesn’t do anything as blatant as this.
This was just called as a penalty in #RSLvVAN. Don't think the defender even makes contact with Baird. Where is VAR in situations like this? Really bad first 2 weeks for MLS refereeing. Compiling a long list of controversial decisions. #RSL #VWFC pic.twitter.com/6cMRuvvLky
— MLS Buzz (@MLS_Buzz) March 9, 2019
Rusnák stepped up to drill home the penalty and the ‘Caps were in for an uphill battle.
And it was a task made harder when they lost PC to an eye injury after being clattered by Everton Luiz in the 41st minute, after a flying arm caught the ‘Caps defender in the face and earned the RSL man a yellow card.
The Whitecaps attack was once again posted missing in the first half, with Fredy Montero getting no service for the second straight match and Venuto being the chosen lead actor for this week’s adaptation of the Invisible Man. Yordy Reyna was also having a poor outing, but he flashed a shot narrowly wide in the 52nd minute to remind people of the danger he can be.
Baird nearly got onto a perfect through ball on the hour mark, but Max Crepeau was out of his box quickly to clear the danger, as the Whitecaps high backline was caught flat.
Rusnák had the ball in the net for a second time in the 64th minute, but he was clearly offside when he received the through ball.
The ‘Caps had their best chance to get back on levels terms three minutes later when Doneil Henry rose to meet a Nerwinski cross, but his powerful header was straight at Rimando.
Vancouver came close again with 12 minutes remaining, when Joaquin Ardaiz’s tempting ball across goal had now takers, after the young DP was played in by a superb ball from fellow sub Lass Bangoura.
Hwang then curled a lovely effort just over four minutes later, as the ‘Caps pushed for that elusive equaliser.
Crepeau came up with an early save of the year contender from Damir Kreilach in the 85th minute, turning the Croatian’s header onto the post to keep the ‘Caps in it.
But despite a little huffing, there was sadly little puffing in the closing minutes and RSL comfortably held on for what could prove to be a big three points when the playoff places shake out come the end of the season.
For the ‘Caps, there were a couple of positives, in particular the play of Hwang and what Ardaiz brought to the team when he came on, but there were far too many passengers and missing personnel once again, and once again there were no attacking players on the scoresheet. At some point they have to turn up or it’s going to be a long season ahead.
FINAL SCORE: Real Salt Lake 1 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
SALT LAKE: Nick Rimando; Brooks Lennon, Marcelo Silva, Nedum Onuoha, Aaron Herrera; Everton Luiz, Kyle Beckerman, Jefferson Savarino (Sebastian Saucedo 76), Damir Kreilach (Nick Besler 87), Albert Rusnák; Corey Baird (Sam Johnson 65) [Subs Not Used: Andrew Putna, Tony Beltran, Justin Portillo, Tate Schmitt]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crepeau; Jake Nerwinski, Doneil Henry, Erik Godoy, ‘PC’ Giro (Scott Sutter 45+2); Jon Erice (Joaquin Ardaiz 70), Andy Rose, Inbeom Hwang; Lucas Venuto (Lass Bangoura 61), Yordy Reyna, Fredy Montero [Subs Not Used: MacMath, Derek Cornelius, Russell Teibert, Felipe Martins]
MARC DOS SANTOS
Overall thoughts on the game:
“It’s disappointing because we felt again that it was as game that at least at one point from how we worked, from how we showed up in the second half, that there was a lot of very good moments. In the first half before that call in the box, Inbeom had a very good shot, a very good save by Nick Rimando, then a good run from Andy Rose, another save by Nick Rimando, and then the call in the box. I felt that the guys were always in the game, always tried. We pushed and we had the players coming in well. I felt every sub that came in brought something to the table. And then of course in the last ten minutes when it became a little bit stretched there was some transitional play from Real Salt Lake that was dangerous. Normally, you’re playing the last 10 minutes a little bit ‘emergency.’ But again, I believe in what we’re doing, I believe in these guys, and I feel that if continue growing we are going to be a very good team.”
On what to say to the team after the penalty call:
“It’s tough because I have 3 kids and I don’t want to spend money because I say stupid things. I’ll just say watch it. Everybody watch it. It’s unfortunate because Jake did a foul against Minnesota and it was a penalty shot. The foul of Jake against Minnesota was a clear penalty shot. This one? Just watch it. Everybody should watch and then everybody should form their opinion.”
On what to take away from this game compared to the first week:
I have to watch it again. I think there was some good movements in the offensive, some opportunities that if our first touch — I remember a ball played to Inbeom at the edge of the 18 in the second half — if that first touch was a little bit better they would have been in front of the goal. So sometimes it was so close to being in such good positions and we have to reinforce the good things we are doing, keep on growing in things we have to be better at, and that’s how you grow as a club.”
On the team’s performance in the second half:
“I was sure we would tie. And I was sure that if we would have tied the game that we would have pushed. And always aware of their danger, always of their counterattack situations that are always dangerous. But I can’t ask for more. They pushed, they tried. There was a great chance with a great shot from Inbeon and Ardaiz has a very clean header. What more can you ask? The guys pushed, the guys tried, and it’s going to end up turning. I’m sure of that.”
On Inbeom’s performance:
“He is a player that is great asset to the MLS. He’s a dynamic player, gets out of pressure very quick, plays fast, good with the right and the left foot. That’s him.”
On Ardaiz’s performance:
“He came on, he stretched them. Freddy was more playing underneath and Ardaiz was able to stretch the back line to get in behind. I felt he came in well, he brought energy, and that’s what we need form our guys on the bench.”
On Scott Sutter’s performance:
“He did a great job. When we are in meetings, we hear that you shouldn’t touch a player’s face. But again, it’s all interpretation. PC gets injured from that play with Everton Luis and then from that play we needed to make the sub. It’s funny because we used him in big parts of training this week, trying to think about who we should fill in if there’s a substitution in the left back. Scott did a good job coming in for sure.”
On Maxine’s performance:
“He was solid, he did his job, he played well off his line, he was focused, and he’s going to keep growing.”
On what went into the decision of signing Ali Adnan:
“The need to reinforce the position that we felt we needed a more steady, natural left back. If you look at the left backs that we’ve used, both Brett and PC can play left back and do a good job there but have a more offensive attitude and can also play winger. We felt the club needs a left back. We felt that Ali was the right timing, the right one in the right moment, so he’s going join the team soon.”
Overall thoughts on today’s game:
“We come out of it frustrated for sure. The penalty was unfortunate, I don’t understand why that wouldn’t go to VAR. It’s pretty clear that Jake doesn’t make any contact. I think that part of it frustrating for sure. It definitely creates the opportunity. I think Max came up big on a few occasions, but certainly in the second half we created more than enough to get something out of the game.”
Second half impressions:
“I thought that the movement from everyone, especially the front three was excellent, and our ability to beat a man or two and then switch the play to the other side. I thought they were having a lot of joy in carving Salt Lake open, so it makes it more frustrating that we were unable to capitalize on that sort of dominance in the second half. Coming away in MLS, you have to find ways to pick up points, and today we generally feel that we should be coming away with something today. We’re frustrated but we have to hold our heads high and look forward to next week.
Thoughts on Hwang:
“He’s an unbelievable player. You could tell from day one when he got in and he’s an absolute pleasure to play with. He always wants the ball in tight spots and obviously he can create something out of nothing. Looking back, he volleyed, somehow made incredible contact with it in the first half and it was a great save by Rimando. In the second half, his left footed strike from distance almost knuckled just under the crossbar. Very talented, and for me playing next to him the more I can get him on the ball and get in good positions will benefit the team.
On Scott Sutter’s early entrance:
“He has also been excellent throughout the preseason. He’s a steady presence for us. Veteran leadership and his experience with the game, he’s so calm and composed back there. Obviously playing on his weaker side today, and it’s not easy to play here at altitude, I’ve done it before, when you come in as a sub and it takes a little bit to get your second wind, so credit to him.
On the next game:
“Focusing on the positives, what we did as a group. I think there was a lot of good things that came out of today, and again coming on the road in MLS is never easy, but I think there are a lot of things we can feel good about. At the end of the day it’s about picking up points, so we will leave frustrated and have to go through the film all week. Understand Houston, what they do well and what they don’t do well and build for next week.”
“I’m obviously disappointed. We came here with the mindset to get some points and we wanted to win, but it unfortunately wasn’t to be. I think that there were moments in the game, where we did create chances, but there are still positives to take from the game for us to go forward.”
On his debut:
“It’s good to get the first game out of the way. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win we all wanted, so I’m disappointed but happy to get a few minutes under my belt. I definitely think it will be something that I can build on, from here on out.”
On the second half:
“We created chances—which is never easy away from home—but of course [Real Salt Lake] had a couple chances as well late in the game, when we began to open up and risk a bit more. In the end, we didn’t get the goal we desperately needed, and I felt that a point would have been justified, but the game wasn’t like that. Now, it’s important to regroup, trust the process, and look forward to the next game.”
On his experience:
“I was put there last week as an alternative or backup, just in case something happened, and today that was the case. But I’m there wherever the coach needs me to be. If he wants me to play as a striker or in the goal, I think that is part of the team spirit, here. Like I said, even though we didn’t win, there are a lot of positives to take away from the game. We just need to work harder, so we can get some points in the next game.”
REAL SALT LAKE
On the progression of the defence:
“Yeah, like we said during pre-season we really focused on that, because we’re on the road so much the first 15 games. Last weekend’s performance one shot on goal was excellent. Tonight, I thought the first half all around -complete control of the game from us and defensively we were extremely sound. The second half they obviously are trailing one nothing they come out of halftime and have a bit more energy, they have changed a bit tactically and we were able to hold off for the 1-nothing win. There were key moments in the second half particularly outlined with Aaron going up against a lot of pace and did an excellent job. Nedum and Marcelo shifted well together, and Everton and Kyle put incredible work in tonight. So from a defensive standpoint it was a good performance and as a team for I would give it 60-75 minutes – it was an excellent performance.”
On what Everton brings to the team:
“We did our research on everything before we signed him, and we knew the qualities that he would bring and he’s shown them now the last two games. His partnership with Kyle has been great since the pre-season. They read very well off of each other, they’re both very like-minded in understanding the position. He did an excellent job tonight in recognizing when to step out to key moments to put pressure on higher up the field but then Kyle dropped in there and we focused a lot of this week on that because of Vancouver’s midfield three they’re so interchangeable, they’re always on the move that we focused on that this week and I thought that Everton and Kyle did a fantastic job against him.”
On the penalty call:
“I saw Corey get played through and then he fell down. And then the whistle was blown. That’s what I saw from a distance. I have not re-watched it yet, but I know that he went through and everything was checked out. It was a good buildup from us though. Good possession play and then being able to penetrate behind from lens out wide or from the middle and that’s what Corey did and it was a great run and a great penalty kick from Albert.
On Sam Johnson’s 25 minutes:
“Yeah, Sam’s got quality. I’ve been in this league for 20 years now. I’ve been around foreign players every year. To come and get adjusted to a league like this is not very easy. With the travel, with the speed of play at times which is erratic at moments. It’s a very big transition league. Sam is doing very well, and he is somebody who I know is going to play a big roll for us starting now into the future. I thought he had some good touches. I thought he worked his ass off, won some head balls, and had a chance getting to goal which is partly him making himself available in that moment and partially us finding him. I’m excited about having Sam here were bringing him along a little slow right now, but he’s going to play a key role for us this year.”
On the atmosphere in the stadium and supporters groups:
“Long story short, I met with the heads of the supporters groups over the break and I made a presentation for them about what I’m asking them to do and getting their feedback. And we decided that we wanted to recognize you guys a bit more than just clapping. They came up with the idea of a flag to be planted. My whole thing was after every win we will do that. We won’t do that after a tie or a loss, but we’ll always recognize you. So I thought it was a good first one, I thought they were loud tonight, I thought the tifo was unbelievable. I think they’re all coming together which is key for us and key for the environment in the stadium. “
On playing aggressive with a lead:
“We brought Nick in because they were obviously pushing the forwards up being down 1-0. And they were having a lot of 1 v 1 isolations out wide particularly on Aaron’s side and we weren’t able to shift quick enough because they had two or three guys centrally. So to bring him in expands the back line a little bit. That was the main reason for that. As far as Nedum and Marcello going forward at first I was losing my mind screaming at them to get back, but then I recognized pretty quickly that they had a lot of guys back and they only left one guy up top going for that second goal. So we were covered pretty well behind there.”
On the rest of the season and the supporter group:
“Again, I met with them and talked of the importance of unity and importance of the environment in the stadium and that if they come together it can be a heck of a lot louder and urging us on together. They agreed, so I don’t think it will happen overnight. But, I think tonight was a good sign. I know there were a couple more factions of supporter groups around the stadium, and they chose to stay where they are, and that’s ok. But I think the environment was pretty damn good down there.”
On importance home wins:
“It’s going to be crucial. If we can continue the rest of the season like the first two games: A tie on the road and a win at home, were going to be in pretty good shape. It’s going to be extremely important for us to take care of business at home this year, like we did last year.”
On Brooks Lennon
“Well, if you look at the 82nd and 86th minute roughly, when we are winning one nothing and he is in the opposing teams eighteen that’s not something I am encouraging. That’s something we are continuing to talk to him about. You know, he is obviously a very offensive player, having been a forward or winger his whole life. But those are the key moments to kill a game off that we cannot leave ourselves exposed. You know, early in the game first half, second half if it is 0-0 or if we are losing, yes, I want him to be in the attacking half. But he also has to learn, which we are continuing to talk to him about is to read the game and read the moment and know what the most important thing here. You know, winning one nothing or winning two nothing, to me I could care less if it’s one or two to nothing, as long as we win. So to protect ourselves a little more that’s something we are certainly going to continue talk to Brooks and show him some video after tonight.”
On his mindset the last two games:
“It’s the same thing as last year, I’m just looking to be dangerous, whether it’s on the ball or off the ball. We found the ball in a good spot out wide where we could isolate the guy 2v1 and Aaron put me in.”
On getting the shutout:
“I think it’s huge. I think we’re a little disappointed with Houston, but coming back here at home and showing that we can defend as a team is a big step forward for us. We want to be scoring more goals, but if one can do it, that’s awesome.”
On the buildup to the penalty:
“We won a ball in their half. Aaron got it and it was a 2v1 against their outside back. That’s a play I think everyone’s done a million times. I was able to get a touch in front of their outside back and he brought me down.”
On establishing defensive consistency:
“Last year we had some games that definitely got away from us. I think being disciplined in the first half is big where we don’t put our heads down early. That’s shown in the first two games.”
On the importance of home wins:
“It’s huge. We definitely want to start the season strong. With a lot of road games and the road struggles last year, we want to make sure that home is a strong place for us.”
On the energy from the fans in the south end:
It’s awesome. I think the energy they bring is infectious to the rest of the stadium as well.”
On keeping a clean sheet:
“I think it was similar to last week against Houston. Although we conceded there, the desire to keep the ball out of our goal was great. It was the same today, but I think overall we tweaked a few things and limited them to some not-so-great chances.”
On getting three points at home:
“It is very important, but the points tally at the end of the season that gets us into the playoffs is going to be the most important thing, regardless of wherever it comes from. Obviously, you want to do well at home because this is your turf – this is where you have the advantage. For me it’s all about finishing as high up in the table as you can.”
On absorbing late pressure building confidence:
“Every game is different. For me personally, for as much as we kept the clean sheet today and it was great, the win was the bigger thing. If we win 9-8 every week between now and the end of the season, it doesn’t really bother me. I put a lot of pressure on our attackers to do their jobs and to be more clinical. When some teams struggle, I think it’s more so because they can’t score as opposed to being able to stop goals from going in. That’s why I say to Corey Baird all the time, ‘Be more clinical and the more clinical you are the better we’ll be.’ I said to Albert before the game ‘If you play well, we’ll win the game.’ Albert scores the goal and we win the game. Say no more. … I think it’s the way you deliver the message. I don’t really shout at people if I don’t have to. If you’ve got a point to make, you shouldn’t necessarily have to shout it at someone for them to understand. As long you can show them the benefits. Albert’s making runs into the box and scoring goals. Corey’s making runs in behind and creating chances. I don’t need to say much more.”