Vancouver Whitecaps rally from behind for 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake

Vancouver Whitecaps Fredy Montero
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Portland, Oregon — In their second “home” game in Portland, the Vancouver Whitecaps faced off against Real Salt Lake for the second and final time this season. Just a few weeks ago, Lucas Cavallini scored the late winner in Sandy, Utah. On Saturday, Vancouver was hoping for some more magic to drag themselves back into the playoff race, while Salt Lake were clinging on in a tight western conference.

Determined to get his team back on the right track, Vancouver head coach Marc Dos Santos marched out a similar 4-4-2 to Wednesday. Ranko Veselinovic and Lucas Cavallini both made their return to the starting 11, and recent acquisition Evan Bush made his second consecutive start in goal.

No Andy Rose due to suspension, and Erik Godoy’s red card against San Jose was reversed so he made his fourth start since returning from injury.

Meanwhile, Freddy Juarez chose his fourth different formation in as many games. Winless in their last three, the playoff fringe side looked at Saturday’s fixture with bottom of the conference Vancouver, knowing these are the types of games they need to win. Juarez elected a 4-4-2, matching Dos Santos, featuring six changes from their 2-1 loss in Seattle. Damir Kreilach was given his shot up front, pairing with Douglas Martinez.

Same old same old

Having not lead at all since the last time these sides met back in September, Vancouver has become accustomed to playing from behind. Despite defending well and keeping their shape for 36 minutes, it always seems to be a question of “not if, but when” with the Whitecaps. A patient Maikel Yang drew multiple defenders, before crossing the ball to find an open Justin Meram at the back post. Meram had the chance to knock it near post, but selflessly squared it for Kreilach for the easy tap in.

The score stayed the same though to half time. with Vancouver having the lion’s share of possession and chances. But, as tough of a pill as it is for sports fans to swallow, the most important stat is the score.

A note of concern from the Whitecaps’ point of view was the fact that Bush had more touches than four outfield players, including centre midfielder Janio Bikel. Bikel was partnered with Leo Owusu in the middle of the park, and the two defensive minded players visibly lacked an attacking mindset. The middle of the field was all Salt Lake for the first 45, allowing Vancouver the outside wings and no more.

Deja Vu for Cavallini

Quick note to all MLS fans, remember the name “Michael Baldisimo”. Announcing himself as a perfect replacement for Inbeom Hwang, the youngster has been a shot in the arm for an otherwise depleted Whitecaps team all season long. It took 67 minutes for “Baldi” to make an appearance, it took three more to make an impact.

A well placed free kick onto the head of Godoy found the back of the net in the 70th minute. It later was given as an own goal by Martinez, as the long looping header passed over a diving Putna. The goal was just Vancouver’s second in five games, so it was fitting that a team lacking a cut-throat attack manages to find the score sheet through an own goal.

The dead-lock lasted just four more minutes, with Baldisimo placing a beautifully weighted through ball to Ali Adnan down the left wing. A cross found a Bikel, unable to release the shot, fell to an open Fredy Montero eight yards out. The original shot was saved, but the rebound fell to Cavallini, who laced one in from close range. The goal was the strikers’ third on the year, and proved to be his second game winner against Real Salt Lake.

Looking ahead for the Whitecaps

With the three points, the Whitecaps leapfrogged Salt Lake, sitting just one point and two places outside of the playoffs. Andy Rose will be back for Wednesday’s game against LAFC, and they could very well need him. Last time out, LA ran Vancouver off the park in a 6-0 result. Man of the match Baldisimo is likely going to join Bikel and Owusu in a three man midfield, which Dos Santos has says he prefers him in. Vancouver will host LAFC in Portland, a place that Dos Santos has said that the players are still getting used to.

“I’m not going to call this home, out of respect to our fans. This is not home… it just feels like a place where we are creating habits, but it will never feel like home” — Marc Dos Santos

Winless in their last four, RSL prepares itself for a home bout with Portland. The Timbers are 2nd in the West, and the now 2nd last Salt Lake side face an uphill struggle to close out the year. Five out of the team’s remaining six games are against teams that are currently in the playoffs, simmering over the dropped points against a lowly Vancouver side. Real Salt Lake face Portland on Wednesday, aiming to get this campaign back on track for a rocky finish.



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