SANDY, UT. – Coming into Saturday’s game, both the Vancouver Whitecaps and Real Salt Lake viewed it as a six pointer. Most of the western conference were bogged together in and around the last few playoff spots, with neither side making a strong case indicating a post season push. Marc Dos Santos only made a single change to his starting lineup, bringing in Ali Adnan for a tired Theo Bair. Freddy Juarez made a handful of changes, bringing Ruiz, Silva and Beckerman back into the Starting XI.
Vancouver Whitecaps Hold on to Beat Real Salt Lake 2-1
5,000 filled the stands at Rio Tinto Stadium, with lots of anticipation for the fixture between two both-dwellers. However people quickly were reminded why these two are bottom-dwellers in the west.
Keeping true to traditional 2020 Whitecap performances, the first 45 minutes were slow. Really slow. But, regardless, Real were the stronger of the two sides. Stronger might be glorifying the first half performance by Juarez’s men, perhaps “less worse” is more appropriate. A couple of fruitless half chances by the home side, highlighted by a stretch save from Thomas Hasal off of a long pot by Ruiz. The rebound bounced around in the six yard box, but inevitably was pulled wide and off for a goal kick.
No changes at half time for either side, much to the displeasure of some viewers. “Lifeless” was thrown around a time or two on the TSN broadcast, maybe they were referring to the game as a whole, maybe to the struggling Ranko Veselinovic. Despite the evident lack of free flowing soccer from Sandy Utah, this game didn’t quite seem ready to roll over and die as quickly as it began.
“Against the run of play”, a tried and true formula
David Milinkovic has certainly grown over the last few games into his new role as a #10. Yet, despite his physicality, direct approach and flashy dribbling, he was still searching for his first goal in a Caps’ jersey. That would change 53 minutes into this one. Having been outplayed so far, Vancouver looked to their loanee to light a little fire. It wasn’t the best of overall performances, but a chipped through ball from Montero sprung Dajome, who found Milinkovic six yards out.
Real fought back harder with their new found deficit, but a Kyle Beckerman red card after a boot to the head of Hasal made the mountain that much more difficult to climb. Or at least one would think. Justin Meram rose up like a salmon to beat Jake Nerwinski at the back post to knock the equalizer past Hasal. A lovely ball in by Maikel Chang made it all possible, and an intriguing final 10 minutes over hung Rio Tinto Stadium
The Super (Designated Player) Sub
It’s been a difficult transition to MLS life for Lucas Cavallini, producing more missed penalties than goals this season. So following his ejection against Montreal two games ago, plus a superb performance from Montero last time out, it was no surprise Dos Santos went with the Columbian. Coming off the bench in a tied game, the stage was set, the lights were ready, all eyes fell on El Tanque. Sort of. That might be an exaggeration.
However you want to look at it, Cavallini was the go to attacking bow in Dos Santos’ quiver. He got his chance to shine in the 84th minute. A beautiful looping ball from Baldisimo found Montero in space down the right hand side, and a quick heads up allowed him to square it across to a sliding Cavallini. The ball disappeared for a split second from the broadcast, before a bulge in the back of the net played backdrop to the ecstatic Whitecaps #9.
Nine minutes of stoppage time had Vancouver clinging on, and a missed tap in from Damir Kreilach was a major heart in throat moment in the dying stages. Holding off the scratching and clawing until the final whistle, Vancouver narrowly escaped as victors. Fredy Montero would be my pick for man of the match, a pair of assists and an overall tidy, impressive performance. Real Salt Lake will look to bounce back on Wednesday as they host the LA Galaxy. Meanwhile Vancouver aim for their third straight win against LAFC, something they haven’t achieved since September 2017.