Vancouver Whitecaps returned to their home away from home at Portland’s Providence Park on Saturday night for what you felt was a must win clash against another team sitting outside the Western Conference playoff places looking in, Real Salt Lake.
The Whitecaps last win came against RSL three weeks ago and they grabbed another tonight with a 2-1 come from behind victory that will have Vancouver fans singing “can we play you every week?”. Sadly the answer is no, although in Covid times, don’t rule anything out just yet.
Damir Kreilach capitalised on some more horrific Vancouver defending to fire RSL into a half time lead, but two goals in a four minute second half spell, the first an own goal and then what proved to be the winner from Lucas Cavallini, saw the Whitecaps storm back for what could prove to be three massive points in their push for the postseason.
Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos went for another experienced line-up, sticking with the 4-4-2 formation and making three changes to the team that went down to San Jose on Wednesday evening. Janio Bikel and Lucas Cavallini returned from suspension, with Ranko Veselinovic coming in at centre back to replace the suspended Andy Rose.
Dos Santos had talked about the best way for his team to avoid shipping goals was to press and see most of the game played in the opposition half. That tactic seemed to be working early with Vancouver enjoying the best of the possession in a match short on excitement but peppered with fouls in the opening stages.
The best chance either side had to break the deadlock didn’t come until the 31st minute when Kreilach curled a low one wide of the right post after a good build up from RSL.
With no shots on target through the first 36 minutes, the game suddenly exploded into life and yet again the Whitecaps conceded with some absolutely shocking defending where they failed to pick up the goalscorer for what was the umpteenth time this season.
Maikel Chang floated a beautiful ball to the back of the box which Justin Meram delicately headed across the six yard box to an unmarked Kreilach, who had the simplest of jobs to compose himself and put the ball past Evan Bush in the Whitecaps goal.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 11, 2020
It was unacceptable defending at this level from the Whitecaps, with Veselinovic just standing off Kreilach to allow him to ghost in and score. Absolutely shocking stuff defensively once again from Vancouver.
You could argue that Vancouver were unfortunate to be behind, but any teams that defends like they have been, are always likely to find themselves in that position and the Whitecaps were once again.
RSL had the ball in the net again in stoppage time through Marcelo Silva, but the ‘Caps breathed a sigh of relief when Kreilach was flagged for offside in the initial shot that Bush saved.
Another frustrating half for Vancouver came to a close and the worry was not only having to come back from trailing again, which they have been highly unacceptable at doing these past two seasons, but that this wouldn’t result in any more red cards.
The ‘Caps raised the tempo in the second half but neither side were able to create much goal threats, as the tackles continued to fly in and Silviu Petrescu’s whistle never seemed to be out of his mouth.
RSL were looking comfortable but Vancouver suddenly found themselves back on level terms when Douglas Martinez looped Michael Baldisimo’s free kick into his own net in the 71st minute.
Four minutes later and the Whitecaps were ahead.
RSL struggled to clear an Ali Adnan cross and the ball fell to Fredy Montero just inside the box. His side footer was well saved by Andrew Putna, but the rebound fell to Cavallini, who tucked it away to put Vancouver 2-1 up with 15 minutes to go.
We weren't level for long!
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 11, 2020
That goal forced the visitors to finally show some urgency, but apart from some wild efforts and crashing into him, Bush had little to worry about and the ‘Caps comfortably held on for three huge points that move them to within one point of the playoff places now in the West.
It’s one game, but there were a lot of positives for Vancouver to take from this one, the main one being the fighting quality to come back from trailing at the half after so many times this season when the teams’ collective head had seemed to go down after falling behind.
There’s still a lot of concerns, from horrific marking to picking up cheap and unnecessary bookings (five alone in this match). But for now, let’s just enjoy the win because there’s a big test coming up on Wednesday when LAFC head to Portland.
After the 6-0 drubbing from three weeks ago, what this team has learned and changed will be there for all to see. Making the playoffs may feel like a huge victory if they got there, being competitive in them is a whole other issue. How they fare against LAFC may give fans an indication as to how likely either of those scenarios might be.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 1 Real Salt Lake
ATT: 0 plus Timber Joey’s unused chainsaw
VANCOUVER: Evan Bush; Jake Nerwinski, Ranko Veselinović, Érik Godoy, Ali Adnan; Cristian Dájome (Tosaint Ricketts 87), Janio Bikel, Leonard Owusu (Michael Baldisimo 66), Russell Teibert (27.Ryan Raposo 70); Fredy Montero (Derek Cornelius 86), Lucas Cavallini [Substitutes not used: Bryan Meredith, David Milinković, Theo Bair, Patrick Metcalfe, Damiano Pecile]
SALT LAKE: Andrew Putna; Aaron Herrera, Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Donny Toia; Pablo Ruiz (Jeizon Ramírez 83), Justin Portillo; Maikel Chang, Damir Kreilach, Justin Meram (Corey Baird 68); Douglas Martinez [Substitutes not used: Zac MacMath, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Besler, Erik Holt, Tate Schmitt, Milan Iloski]
Possession: VAN 49% – RSL 51%
Shots: VAN 8 – RSL 8
Shots on Goal: VAN 3 – RSL 3
Saves: VAN 2 – RSL 2
Fouls: VAN 18 – RSL 24
Offsides: VAN 2 – RSL 3
Corners: VAN 6 – RSL 7
MARC DOS SANTOS
Thoughts on the match?
“I thought at halftime, when we came back to the locker room, I was thinking it cannot happen again. I felt that we were the best team in the first half. Overall, we came out with a good attitude, we didn’t have clear chances but we were the best team. We were the closest team in the last third. Then they get that goal, man we showed these moments with Justin Meram and (Damir) Kreilach like so many times that right now sometimes we’re afraid in our scouting report if we talk too much about a situation that the opponent does it looks like it happens. But then what I said at halftime. It’s now, it’s now the opportunity to show how much we want to be in the top eight. We always have a choice; we have the choice to decide to use the excuse of it’s such a hard year and blah blah blah. Or the choice of saying, no let’s prove everybody wrong. A lot of people don’t believe that we could make the top eight and a lot of people don’t believe in this team. And it’s a huge opportunity for us to show that we could come back and show how much we want to be in the top eight. So great attitude by the guys that came in, Baldi (Michael Baldisimo) came in and participated in both goals. Then we were getting tired at the end. It was the last eight minutes survival or 10 minutes where we felt when they brought (Justen) Glad or Marcelo Silva in the middle of our centre backs and start to play very direct. We needed another body there so we finished in a five-four-one to close the game. Look, the mentality, the belief of the group, the belief that we have here is intact, and we want to keep going, keep pushing. A little bit of a rest and comes the next game on Wednesday.”
On creating chances and that it finally paid off?
“Yeah, I saw that, to be honest, we didn’t create a lot of clear chances. But we shot more than them, more corner kicks, we were more in their half. That’s the beginning of creating more. The chances we had, we finish them and that was important because there’s other games where we created clearer chances. I’ll give you an example, I feel the game against Portland here, our chances were clearer and although we weren’t able to score them then, here today we were able to score them. But again, what I want to highlight is the mentality of everybody that kept fighting, kept going, kept believing and that’s important to build and to continue our stretch here.”
Talk about the resilience that you’ve seen out of this group?
“Look the tough period is the life of everybody that’s leaving. I feel guilty and I feel bad when we talk about this team being in a tough period because it’s unfair there are people that lose their jobs because of COVID, the world is changing. It’s hard for many families. And we’re talking about soccer being hard for the guys. But there’s a reality, that it’s been hard for a lot of the guys that have families right now and stay far from their families and kids. Some of the guys are feeling it more. I’m feeling it more also, it’s I think it’s the toughest week that I had when it comes to that. So to find the energy, to find the balance, to find the resilience, when you lost four games in a row. When you’re down one-zero at half. And you say, we’re against the rope but we’re not going to give up, we’re gonna keep going. We’re gonna keep pushing, we’re going to show that we have the mentality that it takes. That work together as a group, a group that’s not together doesn’t bounce back the way we did.”
Comment on how Michael Baldisimo played tonight?
“Everybody has to play their role in this team. Leo (Owusu) played a very good role until he came off. What we felt is RSL, once they had the lead, they dropped a lot. And we needed to bring a midfielder in that would be able to switch the point of attack and find the spaces through his pass. It was a game that required less pressure because the opponent was lower on the field and we had to find a way to stretch them. Baldi (Michael Baldisimo) has this tool in his game, with his right and left footed he has the ability to switch the play. The sub worked and he came in and he helped the team win the game also.”
On how he’s feeling after a number of collisions:
“The last one was a pretty good shot. That’s a bit sore. Looking at what’s happened to the Whitecaps goalkeepers so far this year, it might be a cursed position so we’ll see how it feels tomorrow. But it feels much better with three points, as opposed to dropping any points after that.”
On reaction to the halftime deficit:
“We’ve talked about it since I’ve been here that the games don’t stop after one goal. The past few games we’ve put our heads down after we’d gone down a goal and then we kind of took ourselves out of the game and things kind of snowballed. At halftime, we had a good conversation in terms of keeping the belief, feeling like we’re gonna score a goal. We needed to get the first one before we got the second one. We did well to find both of them.”
On defensive lapses that lead to conceded goals:
“Outside of that one instance where they scored the goal, I thought the defenders did very well tonight. I thought Erik was great, I thought Ranko was very good to step in as a young guy, to step into that position, I thought he did very well, by and large. And then having Derek come in to fill out the third centre back and then our outside backs did very well too. So, overall I think it was quite a good effort in terms of the defensive structure of our team tonight. Sometimes, you lose guys in the box and you try obviously not to make that happen, but we’ll look at it, we’ll see what we can do and it’s not always the defenders or tracking guys in the box either. It’s also pressure on the ball from outside and stuff like that. There’s a number of things you can look at. But at the end of the day, it’s much better to look at those things after you get three points.”
On advantage of not travelling on matchday:
“It’s nice to not have to get on a plane in the morning and travel a couple hours and all those things. But I was in the same situation before I came here in Montreal, being stuck in New Jersey, and now we’re here in Portland, it is far from ideal, it certainly is. You’re not with your families, 23 of the 26 teams in the league are living pretty normal lives right now and they get to go home with their families, and I think that there’s a lot to be said about that. I completely agree with Cava that this is a short time period that we have left here. All of our attention is now focused on trying to get results. And we’re gonna try to do it in the most professional manner possible. And we have a good group of guys here, it’s been enjoyable since I got here to be around these guys. So that makes it a lot easier too.”
On upcoming match versus LAFC:
“That was a game or two before I got here so I saw the highlights of the game. I didn’t watch the whole game through. I’ll probably watch more of it now that that’s our next opponent. They got a couple guys missing but they’re still a very dangerous team. They still have a lot of quality on their team. And they’re a bit streaky in the sense that they can win obviously 6-0 or they can go and drop points to the teams that in the past couple years that they might not have dropped points to, so we just have to keep the belief, focus on ourselves, and be aware of what they’re going to try to do because they can be a very good team without some of their top players.”
On settling in with the group:
“It’s been a really enjoyable group to be around. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a much younger group than the group that I came from so there’s a little bit of more, maybe, innocence. In terms of, if you lose three or four games in a row, where I was, it got very tense, very heavy, very quickly. And not to say that that we weren’t tense here losing games in a row, but there’s belief every time you go into a game. There’s that sense of wanting to be with each other around the hotel and there’s a lot to be said about that. We have another month, at least, in the hotel, the bubble that we’ve put together. So that’s important. We’re probably not going to win every game going forward. We’d like to but the chances of that happening are pretty low so we need to be able to rebound when we get one point, keep ourselves calm when we get three points, if we lose a game, we need to stay calm and then move on to the next one. I think the environment that’s set up here with the guys that are here, that has made that somewhat easy to transition on to the next game after whatever the result is.”
On the win:
“Happy we got the result. We knew that today was fundamental that we had to win no matter what to stay in the fight. We won. I thought that we started off the game really well, really intense, aggressive, keeping the ball, creating chances. In the first half, we got a goal-against, and then that’s where I guess the downfall came again for us. But luckily for us, it was in the beginning of the game, and in the second half we reacted well. We got an early goal and that’s what pushed us to get the second goal, and of course, win the game. Excited for the victory, today’s three points are really important for us.”
On the difference in reaction to the early deficit:
“The fact that we couldn’t afford to lose this game and to lose any more points if we wanted to stay in the fight. I know that we’re still not in a playoff spot, we’re almost there. As I always say, anything could happen. This league is really inconsistent when it comes to game results because now, teams play every four days, every three days. Due to players now having international duties, a lot of missing key players. Obviously, fatigue is a big factor here. It could cause a lot of injuries, you could play that as an advantage if we’re smart or professional, if we keep the same team as always, we can have a good fight here and clinch a playoff spot.”
On the win’s effect on the team:
“I thought that after the game today, I saw a different mentality, and the players, we have to enjoy today, enjoy the victory and then tomorrow, think about the next game on Wednesday.”
On playing alongside Fredy Montero:
“I’m happy with this formation, to be honest. It’s not like I’m playing upfront with Fredy because Fredy tends to stay back a little bit, play like a number 10 behind me and have a little bit more freedom with the ball, and that makes me play alone upfront, make my movements wherever I want and have my freedom up front. It’s been working well. Today, we showed a lot of that, hopefully just getting more confidence with this formation and getting confident with each other.”
On the next match versus LAFC:
“It’s not gonna be easy the next game, for sure. I know they’re missing Rossi and Rodriguez, and other players as well. It’s still LAFC, it’s still a tough match. We’re coming in this game to win, as we did last game as well. But this time we have to be strong, we have to be better. We got a big taste of how they play, but this time we’re not gonna disappoint, hopefully get another three points to keep adding to the table.”
On advantage of not travelling on matchday:
“Everybody’s in the same shoes as us. The day of the game, they have an away game, they have to travel the day of, and it’s tough sometimes butI know we have a break from that. We havethe majority of our games here at home and we don’t have to worry about traveling. Even though we have the hardest part of not being able to be with our families, we just got to stay professional. Take advantage of being away from home and trying to worry about taking care of ourselves. It’s tough. Playing every three games, but as I said, you have to be the most professional player possible and you always have to be ready for the next game, no matter what.”
On plans for Thanksgiving:
“I’m just thankful that we won this game. I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”
REAL SALT LAKE
On his message to the team:
“We’ll talk about it later. You want to make sure to look over the game before you say something. Keep our head high was basically the message.”
On what RSL has been missing:
“You look at Seattle and you look at LAFC and you understand that they are top teams and you need to be at your best. It wasn’t a pretty game. It was tough to really get into a rhythm. A lot of whistling going on out there, but the guys fought. They got that goal exactly how we wanted to. I think we even created another chance before that one that Damir had at the top of the box that was close. We just didn’t start the second half off with enough energy. Then we were unlucky with the own goal. What tends to happen when teams are in situations not winning a lot of games, you kind of second guess yourself. I just thought the second goal was very sloppy. Very sloppy. Very preventable and sloppy in the way that we handled it. Then we just showed the fight that we have and I’m never going to question that. There was a lot of fight and we’re chasing the game and serving the ball. A lot of it was due to desperation and they were preserving it and they did a good job and they were able to.”
On staying in the playoff hunt:
“You’ve got to be men and you’ve got to not put your hands down. That’s life. There are situations that aren’t necessarily going your way and you can’t put your hands down and stop doing what you need to do to move forward. We need everybody to respond and a little bit of luck here and there. Last game didn’t have much luck – the last goal was offside. Today we score an own goal. We’ve got to start off better to not be in those situations. We knew they were going to look to score – that was one of the biggest things I mentioned at halftime. Try not to do unnecessary fouls in our own half because that’s the only way they can get in the game. Exactly what I said ended up happening. We score an own goal and all of a sudden it’s a game. They’re going to fight. The Canadian teams are out of their country right now, sacrificing. So whenever they feel like there’s actually a chance they are going to give everything. They are suffering more than anyone else right now and they are sacrificing the most right now. So they are going to give every ounce of energy they have and determination and we just didn’t have the finishing touch to put the game away.”
On Justin Portillo:
“We know that he’s a good player. He’s someone that deserves a chance. He’s been fighting and grinding. He did a good job, he was sharp in Seattle and was very good today. I wish it would have gone another way. We were planning to make some subs in there in the middle, but we couldn’t because all of the sudden we were chasing the game. We took Pablo out because he’s been playing so much to see if we could get a little bit of freshness in there. Portillo gave everything he had today. He was very good on the ball, runs himself and is very intelligent. I wish we would have had him at the Academy and he could have been with us sooner. He’s a very good player. At that age, you’re a very mature man. He’s played a lot of games in the USL so you know what you’re going to get.”
On the mood in the locker room:
“Obviously very disappointed. I think the whole team felt like we had that game and then it just slipped away from us. The own goal was super unfortunate. We’ve just got to close out that game.”
On the second half:
“We didn’t capitalize on the opportunities that we did create. We haven’t scored a lot these last couple games so that’s got to be something that we fine tune. We’ve got to drill it into ourselves to finish those chances. Then we have to stay sharp defensively and don’t let them get anything. I didn’t really feel like they had any clear-cut chances either. But they scored two and we scored one.”
On what RSL can improve on defensively:
“The first goal, that’s just unfortunate. I think if you give him that opportunity to try and hit it like he did, I don’t think he would. That’s just a little bit of luck for them. Then the second goal, I’d have to see how it started. I think it was a missed clearance and then a scramble in the box. On those you have to be focused 100% and get that ball out as far away from the goal as you can. We didn’t do that and they put it in the back of the net.”
On the playoff hunt:
“It starts tomorrow. It starts in training. We know we’ve got games coming up. We know we have opportunities to climb back up the table. We know what we’re capable of. We’re not a bad team. We can play. We can compete. It’s just about moving forward, keeping that positive attitude and working and willing yourself to win. There are six games. That’s six more opportunities to get points. That’s six more opportunities to climb up the table. That’s how we have to approach it and attack it.”
On Portillo and Ruiz:
“Pablo and Portillo have been fantastic for us. They both came in this season and have everything we could ask them to do. They are both technical players. They both connect the dots for us. I’m very happy with both of them. They are both talented players. They’re good players. They’ve stepped up when we’ve needed them to and I think they’ve done well for us.”
On losing to Vancouver for a second time:
“It’s tough. It’s frustrating. But we’ve been in this situation the last two years and at the end of the day everything was good. The first half we did well. We did exactly what we wanted. They didn’t create a lot and we were leading 1-0. Second half, I don’t know what happened but we didn’t get a good reaction and that’s what cost us the posts. We have to keep our heads up. We have to be positive and we have to give everything to win the game against Portland. I know it’s a tough situation, but sometimes in a tough situation the best comes out. We have to be positive and give everything against Portland to get three points.”
On the second half:
“We had a plan to control their backline. They had some ball possession, but they didn’t create a lot of chances. Then they had a set piece – again what happened against Seattle – and you have to be more concentrated and more focused and you have to be ready to defend the ball. A lot of games are decided because of the set piece. Unfortunately, this is why we lost so many points the last couple of games. We had just two mistakes and this is why we lost the game tonight.”