(Photo Credit: @RealSaltLake/Twitter)
One of the things that separates the upper echelon teams in MLS from the pack are their difference makers. The successful teams all have one. The very successful ones have many. You’d be hard pressed to make an argument that Vancouver Whitecaps even have one.
There’s some Whitecaps that can step up with a moment of magic, but not consistently enough. Real Salt Lake on the other hand have a couple, with their standout, when they play Vancouver anyway, being Damir Kreilach.
The Croatian Cap killer struck twice, while Albert Rusnak added one from the spot and Anderson Julio hit a stoppage time banger as RSL trounced the Whitecaps 4-0 in Sandy, Utah on Wednesday evening.
With Max Crepeau and Lucas Cavallini both now away with Canada for this month’s Gold Cup, Marc Dos Santos was forced to ring some changes in the Whitecaps line-up, with Thomas Hasal coming in between the posts and Brian White leading the line up front. Those were the only changes from the side that snatched a draw from the jaws of victory in Dallas on Sunday.
Hasal was getting his first minutes since suffering a concussion last season, but while his head may now be clear from that, he was undoubtedly left a little shellshocked just 43 seconds in, as RSL took the lead on their first foray forward.
A long hopeful ball forward was chased down by the ever-dangerous Kreilach and the Croatian managed to get a foot on it that took it high and over a flapping Hasal who had come off his line.
The Kreilach Kid strikes again!
— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) July 8, 2021
It was a poor goal to lose and for a team suffering some mental scars of late, it really was the worst possible start.
The rest of the half was better, in that they didn’t concede any more. RSL had a couple of sniffs at goal, as did Vancouver, but the only real action came from a low Deiber Caicedo free kick in the 37th minute that David Ochoa held with relative ease.
That was Vancouver’s only shot on target for the first 45 minutes. It was a half where the Whitecaps had the better possession, but they lacked any oomph, any spark, any real feeling that they were going to get back into this match. They were lacking the kind of difference maker Kreilach is, and they had to find one very quickly for the second half.
The Whitecaps looked like they were handed a gift wrapped opportunity to tie things up five minutes after the restart when White was sprung and bore down on goal. Ochoa came out to make the save, and while it looked like a huge wasted opportunity, replays showed that VAR would have ruled it out for offside.
Three minutes later the ‘Caps had another great chance when Cristian Dajome whipped in a dangerous ball across the face of the goal. White was just unable to make contact with an outstretched leg and the ball came to Caicedo at the back post who couldn’t poke it home.
But as Vancouver threatened, RSL showed the danger they could be when Kreilach forced a fantastic diving save from Hasal with a fierce drive. The ‘visitors’ kept the pressure on from the subsequent corner, ending with a great ball in from Justin Meram onto the head of Kreilach, who buried it with aplomb.
.@JustinMeram out here making MAGIC 💫
— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) July 8, 2021
RSL came within inches of making it three just past the hour mark when Rusnak drew a point blank save from Hasal before crashing the rebound off the right post.
The Whitecaps squandered another fantastic opportunity minutes later when Caicedo, who was the only bright spark for Vancouver, tore forward and did everything right to play the ball across to a wide open White, but the forward couldn’t get a shot off and RSL smothered the ‘Caps attack and cleared the danger.
That could, and should, have been a lifeline for Vancouver. Moments later, they were dead and buried when Brown brought down Meram in the box and Rusnak buried the spot kick with 16 minutes remaining.
RSL weren’t finished, and it wouldn’t be a Whitecaps game of late if they didn’t give up a stoppage time goal. This time it was with basically the last kick of the match, and it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but Anderson Julio buried one to send the away team playing in their own stadium home happy.
It was a new low for Vancouver, who risk getting cut adrift at the bottom of the Western Conference. More concerning is there is no discernible end to their woes in sight. Some new additions will surely come in and the team will get back to playing in Canada. Will those be the difference makers? Or will it be too late to save the season by that point?
This is not an enjoyable team to watch. Any goals they score feel out of the blue. Something has to change and quickly if they want anyone to care by the time they do get back to Vancouver.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 0 – 4 Real Salt Lake
VANCOUVER: Thomas Hasal; Cristian Gutierrez (Jake Nerwinski 65), Andy Rose, Erik Godoy, Javain Brown; Déiber Caicedo, Caio Alexandre (Leonard Owusu 79), Janio Bikel, Russell Teibert (Ryan Raposo 65); Cristian Dajome, Brian White (Theo Bair 79) [Subs not used: Evan Newton, Ranko Veselinovic, Gianfranco Facchineri, Patrick Metcalfe, Kamron Habibullah]
SALT LAKE: David Ochoa; Aaron Herrera, Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Donny Toia; Everton Luiz (Justin Portillo 78), Pablo Ruiz (Nick Besler 58); Justin Meram (Anderson Julio 78), Damir Kreilach, Albert Rusnak (Maikel Chang 84); Bobby Wood (Rubio Rubin 58) [Subs not used: Zac MacMath, Andrew Putna, Ashtone Morgan, Erik Holt]
Possession: VAN 55.2 – RSL 44.8
Shots: VAN 10 – RSL 18
Shots on Goal: VAN 2 – RSL 8
Saves: VAN 4 – RSL 2
Fouls: VAN 7 – RSL 9
Offsides: VAN 0 – RSL 0
Corners: VAN 5 – RSL 4
MARC DOS SANTOS
On if he believes the team can turn the results around:
“Yeah, I believe that if we do everything we have to do as a club, we could turn it around. But of course there’s no hiding from we were feeling good about the results we got in Seattle and in Dallas, and it was very hard tonight. But it’s my job as a coach to pick them up. I believe in them, my work here every day in training, I see them working on it, showing up, I see them giving the best that they have. And that’s my job here and I’m going to keep on doing that with all the passion that I have.”
On how to bump the slump:
“First thing we have to do is to make sure that we go back and look at the little things that are not allowing us to win a game, and there’s a lot of things in the first half that I think we did very well. The only difference that was in the first half was the goal that they scored. And apart from that, I think there’s a lot of positive clips that I could take from that and build the confidence of the guys up. I’m going to have to be creative, I’m going to have to find solutions, and I’m going to have to think about that very well, but I’m incredibly motivated to prepare the next game.”
On the match:
“I don’t know what to say. It’s hard to dissect the result but we need to lift each cause it’s not done yet. We have many more games to play.”
On lifting the team up:
“I think for a result like this we need to talk to each other and see what we can do better on the pitch, also outside the pitch. Like I said it’s hard but we have to continue.”
DEIBER CAICEDO (through interpreter)
On the match:
“They were the rightful winners at the end of the day. We have to be more together than ever. That’s the reality. We have to work hard, we have to work really hard and use this as motivation to achieve what we want to achieve for this badge, for this organization, and for us as well. We have to keep going, keep working hard and putting in the minutes to produce results on the field.”
On how the team can turn results around:
“I think we have to unite ourselves as a group, we know we have the ability to play. We’re a top team. We’re a team full of good players, with good abilities. That’s why we have to think we have to unite ourselves and we have our fans in Vancouver, who are cheering us on. We have to do this for them at the end of the day.”
REAL SALT LAKE
On the team’s performance:
“I thought with LAFC we actually had more control of the game. I haven’t looked at the stats, but Vancouver put in a good shift today. Soccer is so weird. Today, we struggled for a little bit in gaining possession and getting pressure on them in the first half. The solution to it was to be more aggressive, being more direct. They were pressing us hard and we were triggering that with square and back passes. They were holding a high line and it was really just about getting in behind. If you want space to play, you have to create it. One way to do that is playing long and running onto it and separating the lines. Then you can earn the right to play. Against LAFC we had very good possession. Today we did for moments, but it wasn’t until the second half that we finally started playing balls in over the top and then we started seeing the game open up. It gave us the spaces that we needed and all of a sudden Albert [Rusnák], Damir [Kreilach], Bobby [Wood] and all of the attacking players could create. I thought it was a solid performance and the guys deserved it. There have been so many games where we have been in it and even dominated, yet we aren’t getting those goals. Today, it was nice to see different players get goals and be rewarded for all of the effort.”
On Bobby Wood’s performance:
“He shows what qualities he has. He’s strong, holding the ball with his back to goal. When we broke the line and got wide, we had two or three occasions when we served the ball and he got to the end of it. That causes a lot of problems for the opponent because of his physique. He’s still getting more fitness. His game is running in behind and battling it out, so you saw him fatiguing a little bit there which is understandable. That’s exactly what we knew. We wanted to push him and he’ll continue to get more fit and sharper and start understanding his teammates as well. The longer you’re in there with them the more you start understanding who likes to serve from where. I thought overall it was a good shift for him.”
On Damir Kreilach deserving MLS MVP:
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. First and foremost I think the team has more of an understanding of what we want to do in the attack. I think he’s benefitting from that. There have been great performances from the guys and good service. I think we are starting to serve the ball more than we have in the past and we are getting more numbers in there. In the past you’ve seen him drift toward the back line, even when we played him as a nine or 10. What we’ve told him is that it’s okay to do it, you can never say no in soccer, but what we want from him is to be 80% between the lines and 20% helping on the buildup because when we do get it wide it’s a shorter distance for him to get in the box. The closer to the goal that we can get him, Albert [Rusnák], Rubio [Rubin], Bobby [Wood], Anderson [Julio] and Justin [Meram], the more goals and opportunities we are going to have. But right now we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. He’s being Damir. I think he’s also benefiting more from the quality of play from the players around him.”
On what the win does for the team’s confidence:
“We were frustrated after the LAFC game. We probably played better against LAFC than we played tonight, but the result is the most important thing and the two results are completely different. We have a reason to be happy after tonight’s game. We spoke about getting the second goal, which is the killer goal and we came out after halftime on the front foot attacking and playing behind them. Once we scored the second goal, everybody felt more confident and comfortable. So we are really happy with the performance, but mainly the result today.”
On the importance of ball movement:
“I feel like we started the game really well. We were dangerous in the first 20 minutes. All of the attacking players including Justin [Meram], Damir [Kreilach], Bobby [Wood], and I were finding good spaces and moving the ball. After 20 minutes, we sat deeper and they had a little bit more possession and we spent a lot of energy defending. At half time we had to figure out how we were going to come out and press them and be in control of the ball. We made a couple of tactical adjustments that changed the game in our favor. In the second half, the goals came. The second goal was crucial and from then on they were desperate to attack and started to throw numbers forward, which gave us even more space to work with.”
On Bobby Wood’s first start:
“He’s been getting some minutes since he came and his fitness level is now in a place where he can start. And he did really well today in his first start. He brings something different than what Rubio [Rubín] has. And for the team, it’s great to have two strikers that you can rely on. Both of them bring quality and something different. I thought Bobby Wood had a very decent performance for his first start, and it’s only going to get better.”
On the penalty kick:
“I want to first say credit to the team for tonight’s performance. The most important thing is that we found a way to get three points and that’s what it is all about. About the penalty kick, Albert and I talked about it and I wanted to take it, but Albert deserved to get a goal as well. It’s his birthday and I think it was proper for him to take it. At the end of the day, it’s so good to have certain players who can score goals.”
On earning goals:
“I try to give the best of myself. At the end of the day, it’s not about one guy or even 11 guys, it’s about all 30 guys in the locker room. We are all one here. It’s all about preparation. It was a little bit tough the last couple of weeks to not get the three points because in a couple of games we deserved it. For example, the game against Houston and the game against LAFC. Tonight was a great night. It’s very good we are on the right path and we just have to keep going.”
On scoring in the 1st minute:
“You’re right, I was surprised as well. It was a perfect ball from Aaron [Herrera]. It was a run in behind the backline and luckily I found the back of the net. It was a good start to the game. We were kind of sleepy in the first half, because we were too deep. Vancouver had more ball possession and a couple of half-chances, but nothing crazy. Then it was an outstanding performance in the second half. At the end of the day we deserved three points tonight.”