Report and Reaction: Salt Shaker – Whitecaps Vancouvered in loss to RSL

Report and Reaction: Salt Shaker – Whitecaps Vancouvered in loss to RSL

Vancouver Whitecaps headed into Utah knowing that a win would have given them their best ever start to a MLS season. But trips to Salt Lake haven’t been happy hunting grounds for the ‘Caps and so it continued on Saturday night with a disappointing 2-1 defeat to a RSL side that really weren’t much of a threat over the 90 minutes.

Vancouver ended up hoisted by their own petard after failing to turn their shots and possession advantage into any points. The better team lost, but it’s all about taking your chances and kudos to RSL for doing just that.

The Whitecaps were by far the better team in the first half, but breakaway and refereeing decisions didn’t go their way and they were hit by a Luis Silva sucker punch goal just before half time and had no answer for it in the second half.

They rarely looked like they’d get back into it and Jefferson Savarino wrapped up the three points for RSL two minutes from time. Brek Shea got a late, late consolation, but that was too little too late.

Carl Robinson’s rotation continued as he made three changes to his starting 11 from the win in Columbus. Efrain Juarez and Alphonso Davies returned to the line-up and Nicolas Mezquida made a rare start, with Yordy Reyna once again unable to make the trip through injury.

The Whitecaps had a couple of early forays forward, sending a couple of dangerous balls across goal but with no takers.

The first shot on target from either side didn’t come until the 19th minute when Stefan Marinovic tipped a long ranger curler from Luis Silva over the bar. RSL kept the pressure on from a corner, with Justin Glad heading over from just outside the six yard box.

The ‘Caps had a great chance to take the lead in the 25th minute when Bernie Ibini set them up on a four man breakaway, but Alphonso Davies wasted the opportunity with a ball that was neither a shot nor a cross, with Kei Kamara screaming for the ball in front of an empty net.

Kamara was left screaming again as the half hour mark approached following a shocking tackle from Marcelo Silva. It was a wild challenge that led to a free kick and booking, and as replays backed that first impression up, the ‘Caps (and myself) were left waiting for VAR decision to turn that into a red, but that was a call that never came. Vancouver and VAR clearly not happy bedfellows.

Kendall Waston glanced a Mezquida header over in the 34th minute, but it was RSL’s Marcelo Silva who came closest to putting Vancouver in front four minutes later when he turned a Kamara cross just past the right post with Nick Rimando left helpless. The stretch seemed to injure his groin, and the man that was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch ten minutes earlier was subbed off.

That was RSL’s second substitution of the half after Demar Phillips was forced off in the 13th minute after failing to shake off a knock he suffered in the first minute of the match.

Davies had another strong break up the left with three minutes of the half remaining, but once again, his final ball was lacking and another ‘Caps chance was wasted.

And it was to prove costly as RSL took the lead four minutes into stoppage time, very much against the run of play.

Luis Silva was left wide open in the box to receive a cross, and had time and space to turn and hit a deflected effort past Marinovic for the opener.

Silva nearly gave RSL a second five minutes after the restart, but blasted over from 10 yards out as he bore down on goal on a quick counter. A massive let off for the ‘Caps.

The ‘Caps just couldn’t get anything going though to get back into the game and it took them till the 79th minute to really test Rimando, who was forced to parry a fierce strike from distance from substitute Cristian Techera, after being played in by a great ball out from Marinovic.

RSL wrapped up the points two minutes from time when Savarino had an easy tap in from a cutback as the home side caught Vancouver cold on another counter.

Shea pulled one back for Vancouver two minutes into stoppage time with another fantastic strike, after latching on to a Kamara header, but there was no time for any more heroics and the ‘Caps suffered a disappointing defeat at the hands of a poor opponent.

I missed the snow.

The Whitecaps finished the match by outshooting their opponents 11 to 9 and having a rare 53.6% possession. Clearly they can’t play when those stats are in their favour!

What a difference a week makes. Let’s hope we say the same thing again when LAFC come to town on Friday.

FINAL SCORE: Real Salt Lake 2 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 16,015

SALT LAKE: Nick Rimando; Brooks Lennon, Marcelo Silva (David Horst 41), Justen Glad, Demar Phillips (Adam Henley 13); Kyle Beckerman, Damir Kreilach; Jeferson Savarino, Albert Rusnák, Corey Baird; Luis Silva (Sunny 82) [Substitutes not used: Alex Horwath, Joao Plata, Alfredo Ortuño, Pablo Ruiz]

VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinović; Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, José Aja, Marcel de Jong (Brek Shea 74); Felipe, Efrain Juárez; Bernie Ibini (Cristian Techera 65), Nicolás Mezquida (Anthony Blondell 81), Alphonso Davies; Kei Kamara [Substitutes not used: Brian Rowe, Aaron Maund, Russell Teibert, Aly Ghazal]



(NB: Carl Robinson did not speak to media after the match!)


On the game:

“It’s disappointing you know? I thought we played really good. In the final third we had a lot of chances, a lot of crosses to make the difference in the first half – in the second half as well. At the end, the quality wasn’t so good in the last third of the pitch. I’m disappointed because at the end, we had the ball, we tried to score the whole game. They just wanted to defend and counter attack it, maybe shoot two or three times, and two was what they scored. We need to be more clear on the last back two. Normally those kinds of games, we need to win at the end. We can make to get the three points. So I’m really disappointed because we worked so hard and we go home with empty hands.”

On team effort:

“We really played like we were planned it during the week. We just need to be more calm on the final third, because we had a lot of chances in the first half to score or try to get a better cross, but we didn’t do it. At the end, we are really disappointed for that because we tried to get to the three points. We really worked hard. Now in the locker room, we’re without answers. When you play we try to score all 90 minutes and in two plays, and they scored two goals. We need to keep working, we need to keep looking forward. At the end, we need to really learn about these kinds of games and hopefully, in the next game, we can get three points at home.”

On next game at home:

“We are really excited. I think it’s going to be a full house. Hopefully they can enjoy, and hopefully we can give them a very good match and the victory.”


On the game:

“You always have to take the positives from the game and learn from our mistakes. I think we just need to be a little bit more clinical in the final third and be strong defensive as a group. We need to work very hard to not to try to concede two goals. There were those moments we had control of the game, and we had some chances to go down and score. We just need to be more clear and clinical in the final third.”

On giving up a goal at the end of the first half:

“As always, you want to play well and win games. The most important thing is to learn from this, and work very hard towards a hard game against LAFC at home. It was a positive performance, but they got the two points. Now it’s working hard to get back home.”

On playing at home:

“It’s always nice to play at home. Everyone gets there and gets positive about this group. We have a very strong group, and we are going to grow into the season and get better and better.”



On reacting to Vancouver’s counterattack

“We worked on it all week. How many times did they punt the ball sixty yards in the first half alone to Kamara to play off of him? We worked on it all week—having good shape, reacting to the pressure on the ball, knowing they’re sending it long, and getting behind and around for winning second balls. They’re a very dangerous team like that. Plus a couple in the back, especially in the second half, got the ball wide a number of times and whipped them across to some pretty good boys. They’re effective in what they do. For one thing, the effort in the defensive structure was there tonight. I’m proud of the guys for that.”

On the offensive opportunities

“If I’m being very honest in assessing the team five games in, I don’t like the way we’re playing with the ball. I don’t think a lot of the players do. We’re wondering what’s going on here? When did we stop playing? When did we stop having ideas? From last year and from preseason this year, it seems to be a little bit of a confidence thing. When we’re clicking, our front four especially, we’re a pretty damn fun team to watch. But it’s been few and far between this year, so far, so we’re looking to get back to the way we know how to play. But hey, we won 2-1.”

On Albert’s possession in the first half

“We talk a lot every week, throughout the week, and before the game about recognizing when to go full force in the transition, which we’re pretty good at. But also recognizing when that’s not on, and pulling it out and possessing it. It wasn’t a tactical thing. I wasn’t yelling at Albert from the sideline, ‘hold the ball, let’s get everybody forward.’ Albert’s a smart player, and I think he took that upon himself. We have to do better in recognizing when to possess the ball, especially at home. If we get tired, get them moving a little bit. As far as going full force has a 20-30% success rate of getting an opportunity.”

On how to continue creating opportunities for shots on goal

“Practice. We practice four days a week, so we’re going to practice on that for sure.”

On the defensive substitutions creating sloppy passes

“If I look back and look at the past, I could say that could have an effect. But I thought that Adam and David held it pretty well, I honestly do. I thought David brought a presence, with Kamara especially. Once we got into the rhythm, after 5 or 10 minutes, I thought they did very well. We watch a lot of video after the games. We talk a lot about preparation for the games throughout the week. If you would have told me that Justen Glad would struggle with the ball at times, as he has this year, I wouldn’t have believed it. Every player goes through something. Every team goes through something. They’re good players, but everyone goes through certain things. We’ve really been trying to focus on defensive structure, getting behind the ball, and then playing from there. You look at the New York game, and you look at this game tonight, these guys aren’t putting that effort in. Now we have to remember how we played out of that last year. So we’ll get there.”

On the mental wear of matching on a tough player

“The defender’s job is to mark the player, keep the ball out of the goal, and away from the goalkeeper. And then in transition, be able to start our attack and build the ball out of the back. It doesn’t always work out that way. Even in games, there’s always ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. Justen and our defenders have done some very good stuff almost every game. We’ve been getting to a more consistent level. And we also have to look ahead of that—who’s moving and where are they moving to? How active are they with the ball? Again, most teams that come in here, they get behind the ball, and they make it difficult in transitions. It’s five games in, we’re 2-2-1 now, we have 29 games left to go, so we’re not panicking or worrying. We just won 2-1, so we’re going to rejoice in that for the moment. We a tough game, a quick turn around against NYC on a small field against a very talented team. We’re going to prepare for that, but like I said, look to get back to the way we know how to play.”

On making a change in mentality

“Our mentality was very good tonight. With two guys going out and two guys coming in, they had mental fortitude. And for the rest of the team to continue to work with a switch like that, I thought was very good.”

On how losing two defenders changed his strategy

“It didn’t change our strategy at all. That’s why we train throughout that week. That’s why we have everybody at trainings, starters and nonstarters. The only thing it changed was when Henley entered the game, it was ‘take 5 minutes, get a touch on the ball, settle in, don’t do anything too crazy. Just let the game come to you.’ And the same thing with David. Once that happened, it didn’t change much. It didn’t change the way we wanted to play.”

On Corey Baird as a starter

“Before tonight I think he had 23 minutes as a pro. We got him on against New York, and then against Toronto he scored a goal. Every day in work, Corey possesses the characteristics of the type of player and person that I gravitate towards. He is an honest, hard-working, talented player. It’s not all just about hard work and strong mentality. You have to have the ability to play with the ball. And he has all that. I want to bring more of him, I have to bring more of him. I thought he did very well tonight. I thought the assist at the end of the game came off of a great transition. Does this mean that Corey is going to start every game? No, I don’t even know if he’s going to start in our game in four days. Does that mean he’s arrived or that he’s the real deal? No, it means that he’s earned through training every week and preseason and 23 minutes over two games of coming off the bench. He’s earned the right to start, and that’s why he started today.”


On disrupting Vancouver’s tactics:

“A lot of movement off the ball. We did a good job of sharing the defensive workload and frustrating them which worked out at the end of the day.”

On the differences between taking opportunities to shoot vs Toronto and Vancouver:

“If I have the opportunity I’m going to shoot, unfortunately in Toronto I did not have it. We did a lot of running sometimes it pays off sometimes it doesn’t. Today was one of those days where moving off the ball creates that space and tonight I had three chances. I put one of those away and I’ll take that any day.”

On playing through a chippy 2nd half:

“That’s football, you know they are going to hit and we are going to hit. Unfortunately, we don’t get the calls we deserve but that is out of our control. We just have to keep playing and keep pounding as a team.”

On RSL’s front four interchanging positions:

“I think we take what the other team gives us. If I have to stay up top to disturb the two center backs I will do that. Today we did a good job of shifting around to create space for other players. Every game is different we’ll have to see how New York plays.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Mattock at 08:25

    RSL had six players on the injury list and had to sub out 2 starters in the first half, and the way they played in the first 45+, I was expecting Petke not to be coming out of the dressing room for the second half as he had been canned and replaced by Ted Eck or Beckerman – they were sad squared.

    I know that your philosophy is a win is a win, but it hurts when another team embarrasses itself for the first 45 and still wins. We did have an advantage in the stats, but our 53% completion rate in the final third was the lowest of any team yesterday, and only the ten man Impact were lower on this weekend.

    I wouldn’t say that you’re afraid to speak freely about Robbo – and perhaps general contentment is in play because the points are being gathered early in the season, but the podcast in general seems to evoke the idea that it’s absurd to consider giving Robbo the pink slip – that he is doing the business with the players he brought in. I would suggest that the discourse has been a bit mushy, you’ve been avoiding his evaluation, so perhaps if the crew is in the mood, a strong stmt on the gaffer would be a welcome topic. Thanks.

  2. Anonymous at 15:35

    For me, this game pointed out that Robbo (and perhaps the whole coaching staff) just don’t understand how to set up a team for attacking football. Case in point: I thought the line-up–with Mezquida AND Felipe in the midfield–was perhaps the most attacking-minded of the season so far (putting Ibini aside for now–more on that later). But then the way they played up the spine nullified that attacking advantage. Time and time again, it was Jose Aja and Felipe dropping back to pick up the ball. Aja would just give it to Waston, who hoofed it up field, and Felipe was forced to do the same from hi deep rearward position. Clearly, this was the instruction from the bench, as it never changed throughout the game. As Petke indicated in his comments, that’s exactly what RSL had expected, and prepared to defend, all week. It would have made far more sense for Waston to pick up that ball deep, then give it to the more skillful passer Aja to work with further upfield. The same in midfield. Jaurez is far better suited to a more overtly defensive posture, while Felipe has shown he can have a deft touch on the ball (see his delivery to Kamara in Columbus for the winner). So why have Felipe drop deep to collect the ball, when his only options there are no-brainers (short pass to the wings, or blast it upfield). Juarez is more than capable of making the easy outlet wing-pass, or linking pass to Felipe. But that scenario would allow Felipe to be in place further up field to combine with the wingers, Mezquida the withdrawn forward, and Kamara. Consequently, instead to two weak options passing options from his own half, that would give Felipe any of a number of higher quality options much closer to to the final third. It got so bad at times that Kamara had to drop deep into midfield, or go out wide, just to get the ball. And the final upshot was Mezquida being isolated, requiring him to outmuscle opponents for 50-50 balls as they sailed toward him. Given his size, we all know how that will end every day of the week. So much better for him to be able to make darting runs, or to combine with a more advanced Felipe as they work together to feed Kamara the target, or one of the wingers coming in late (see Shea’s lat two goals).

    Finally, Bernie Ibini may try hard, but he just hasn’t got the skill with the ball at his feet to do much. Put him into altitude in Sandy, where he’s going to tire a bit faster, and his skills become that much more blunted. I’d have started Shea, and brought Ibini in when everyone on the field was tired in the 2nd half.

    No, here’s how the team should have been set up:
    Shea–Felipe——Davies (so he can cut in from right–see his goal and assist vs Columbus)
    De Jong—Aja–Waston—Nerwinski

    And from the back, Waston should collect the ball, for the simple outlet to the wings or to Aja, who would then decide to carry, or pass it on. This is a coaching staff that either can’t trust it’s players, or (more likely) doesn’t understand attacking soccer at all.

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