Report and Reaction: Record-breaking RSL Glad all over after season opening win over Whitecaps

Report and Reaction: Record-breaking RSL Glad all over after season opening win over Whitecaps

On hindsight, you don’t actually want to have Real Salt Lake as your season opener. The Utah side set a MLS record at BC Place on Saturday night, with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Vancouver Whitecaps that saw them move to a staggering 14 match unbeaten run in season openers from 2010 to this year. Impressive stuff, but even more so when you factor in that 13 of those matches have been on the road.

But it could have been all so different if the Whitecaps had made their first half dominance and play pay.

This was a proverbial game of two halves, with the Whitecaps bossing the opening one, taking the lead through a 24th minute Javain Brown header, before handing the reins to the visitors in the second, losing two goals in a three minute spell to Justin Glad and Damir Kreilach to get their season off to a very disappointing start on a snowy night in Vancouver.

Vanni Sartini went with a 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree formation for his first line-up of the new season, with perhaps a couple of surprises as new Uruguayan centre back Mathias Laborda was on the bench, with Tristan Blackmon in the middle of the back four and Javain Brown coming in at right back. At the other end of the pitch, Cristian Dajome earned the start after an impressive four-goal preseason, but Pedro Vite made way for him, with the very much out of form Brian White chosen to lead the line. Yohei Takaoka made his MLS debut in goal.

The Whitecaps came out strong and took the game to RSL in the early going. Their first look on goal came nine minutes in when White played in Ryan Gauld and his strike was tipped over by Zach MacMath in the visitor’s goal.

The Whitecaps were looking solid defensively with the extra defender and a confident ball-playing keeper and they were moving the ball well going forward. Their play got the breakthrough it deserved in the 25th and came courtesy of their first set piece goal of the season when Julian Gressel’s corner was met by Brown, who headed home the opener and the ‘Caps first goal of 2023.

Dajome had a chance to add a second moments after the restart but MacMath stood tall as the ‘Caps sensed blood.

But for all their dominance they couldn’t add to their tally and allowed RSL to get back into the game. The visitors caused a few scrambled clearances as the half wound down, but the Vancouver defence held firm and they went into the break with the narrow lead.

The ‘Caps had a couple of long range efforts to start the second half but RSL really started to take the game by the scruff of the net, patiently building up on the edge of the box and forcing some big saves from Takaoka.

The Japanese keeper saved a Marcelo Silva header and shots from Anderson Julio, Jasper Löffelsend, and Jefferson Savarino in a six minute spell around the hour mark to keep Vancouver’s lead intact.

Then came a moment that proved to be a gamechanger.

A quick Whitecaps three man break saw Gauld play a perfect pass inside with White and sub Pedro Vite to his left. White needed to leave the ball and let it run through to Vite, but instead the striker took a heavy first touch and clattered into MacMath, killing the goal threat and the chance to open up what you felt would have been an important two goal lead in the 67th minute. A bad decision by White or was there no shout to leave it?

Instead of that, the ‘Caps found themselves trailing just six minutes later.

As good as Takaoka had been in the second half, he was left rooted by a ball in from Maikel Chang and Glad ghosted in unmarked at the back post to bundle home a 70th minute equaliser.

It was the kind of horrible marking we saw all too often last season from the ‘Caps, allowing opponents to just run unchecked onto dangerous balls. There were two wide open RSL players in the box. Four RSL players in total and eight Whitecaps. Five, arguably six, Whitecaps players don’t have a man and half of the RSL players are unmarked, one of whom scores. It was truly terrible stuff.

Three minutes later and things went from bad to worse, as the visitors took the lead.

Jefferson Savarino danced into the box and played the ball back to Kreilach, who had been kept very quiet all night up to this point. It just takes one moment of magic to make people forget that and that’s exactly what the Croatian delivered, with a curling shot to beat Takaoka and give RSL a 2-1 lead.

It had been a tale of two halves for the Whitecaps but they started to find some of their play they had in the first as they tried to get back onto level terms. Despite the build up, the end product was simply not there.

A disappointing end to a game that had offered so much with the Whitecaps’ first half performance. A lot of questions around the team coming out of this one too, from game management and substitutions, to playing a striker in White for the full 90 when he is clearly struggling, to the continued terrible marking of spaces and not actual players.

After such a promising preseason and a lot of optimism going into this one, it feels like a massive comedown. It’s only game one, but it’s got the season off to an uninspiring and enthusiasm sapping start. Onwards and upwards. Hopefully.

FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 – 2 Real Salt Lake

ATT: 19,614

Possession: VAN 55.3% – RSL 44.7%
Shots: VAN 18 – RSL 11
Shots on Goal: VAN 7 – RSL 7
Saves: VAN 5 – RSL 6
Fouls: VAN 10 – RSL 3
Offsides: VAN 4 – RSL 3
Corners: VAN 10 – RSL 6

VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Javain Brown (Ryan Raposo 76), Ranko Veselinović, Tristan Blackmon, Luís Martins (Ali Ahmed 86); Julian Gressel (Sergio Córdova 76), Andrés Cubas; Alessandro Schöpf, Cristian Dájome (Pedro Vite 66), Ryan Gauld; Brian White [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Mathías Laborda, Karifa Yao, Sebastian Berhalter, Russell Teibert]

SALT LAKE: Zac MacMath; Andrew Brody (Bode Hidalgo 88) Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Bryan Oviedo; Jasper Löffelsend, Braian Ojeda (Scott Caldwell 88); Maikel Chang (Andrés Gómez 74), Damir Kreilach, Jefferson Savarino (Justin Meram 79); Anderson Julio (Danny Musovski 79) [Substitutes not used: Gavin Beavers, Erik Holt, Ilijah Paul, Moses Nyeman]




On the match:

“You can do what you need to do and because you know, it’s MLS. Every team has quality, every team has a spell during the game where they can have a little bit more of the possession against you. Because even in the second half they were doing more, but we had two clear transition moments. One with Brian if front of the goal and one with Ryan [Gauld]. And if we score one of those two it’s 2-0, and we’re talking about a different game. It should have been more than 1-0 in the first half because we played really well. Unfortunately we didn’t capitalize on the work that we did, in terms of build up and arriving in the final third and then we got punished. The meaning of today is that playing well is not enough. We need to be also cynical inside the box.”

On the first and second halves:

“I think the first half was fantastic. We pushed, pushed, pushed. We created a lot of chances and their best player was the goalkeeper probably, then they scored their first and second goal. In the second half we didn’t have the best half, we were playing against a good team, a team that makes the playoffs every year, it’s a good team. Again, thinking that we are dominating the game for 90 minutes, it’s not realistic. So today, we actually were the best team in my opinion, for 65 minutes so that should translate to winning the game but unfortunately it didn’t. I would say, we need to be proud of our attitude and our way of playing. Also we need to be pissed and disappointed and critical with ourselves, because we need to be better.”


On what changed between the first and second half:

“It’s hard to say. In the first half we were passing the ball really well, pressing quite high. For one reason or another in the second half, we weren’t doing that and they started pressing a little bit higher and it was harder for us to build out. They had success with finding their fullbacks higher up, and they started keeping the ball a little more and we found it tough to get out. So there’s a lot for us to look at to try and improve and get a result next week.”

On Yohei Takaoka’s debut:

“think he’s done well. You can see straight away the quality he’s got with his feet and it gives us the option to turn back and keep the ball a little bit more. He didn’t have too many saves to make. When he was called upon he’d done well. The two goals he really didn’t have much of a chance. You know, the first one was a good ball at the back post and the second one’s a great finish not much of a chance for him but I think he had a good solid performance and he’s going to be a good player for us.”


On his debut:

“Not a good result, I’m disappointed. Next game is coming so I have to analyze it and keep my head up and focus on the next game.”

On the match:

“In the first half we played well, in the second half a little bit changed. We have to be patient, it was too easy to concede the goals. Sometimes it happens, but two goals in a row, we can change.”



On using his wingers:

“Watching their preseason film, their wingers are always front screening, and that sets up perfectly for us with our outside backs a little bit higher. Again I think we did a really good job in preseason of exploiting those wide areas. The execution in the first half wasn’t good enough, but I think in the second half we created some great opportunities that always start in the wide areas for us. Some really good finishes that culminated in a good result.”

On Damir Kreilach scoring after returning from lengthy injury:

“It’s amazing. The things that Dami brings to the group are so much more than what you see with your eyes. He brings just an unbelievable amount of leadership to the group, managing the game the right way, leading the press from the front, linking through the midfield. But his greatest asset is scoring goals. I’ve never seen a player that is so lethal in front of goal. He takes his chances well. So after spending a year away and watching his teammates play last year, I’m just so happy for him to be able to share in that moment and score the game winner, because he is the leader of this group and he waited a long time for this moment.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. David kent at 12:38

    Like the dining of Ali looks to me if used properly could be a star,smart and tough

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