SANDY, UTAH – After a long and emotional international break for both the United States and Canada, the MLS kicked off again on Friday night. Sandy Utah, the home of both Real Salt Lake and (temporarily) Vancouver Whitecaps, welcomed fans to watch this “mi casa es su casa” fixture. Vancouver were eager to get back on track, registering just one win in their previous seven games after what seemed like a bright start to the campaign. RSL were also looking to pick up the full three points, suffering three consecutive ties to lower opposition.
Stoppage time double sees Real Salt Lake sneak past Vancouver
Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos finally managed to please the Vancouver faithful by putting out a 4-3-3. Javain Brown looked to build on his impressive debut last time out at right back, with a solid midfield threesome of Michael Baldisimo, Caio Alexandre, and Janio Bikel. Brian White made his Vancouver debut after being brought in from New York Red Bulls over the break.
Freddy Juarez went for a relatively similar line up, with the 4-2-3-1 that has served him so well over the years. Damir Kreilach, aka “the man in form” for RSL, sat in that number ten spot, supplying balls into the ever dangerous Rubio Rubin.
Fast start for Real
It took just six minutes for Vancouver to fall back upon their hero of 2021 Max Crepeau, who turned aside an Anderson Julio break away in sublime fashion. Similarly, just ten minutes later, he pulled off similar heroics to turn aside Rubin’s effort.
Vancouver has been notorious for their slow starts this year and it showed on Friday. Yet to score a first half goal this season, and the trend continued in this one.
However for Real, they were happy to capitalize on all of their pressure, and did so in the 43rd minute.
Brilliant build up play from the Americans found Albert Rusnak laying it off to Kreilach from the edge of the box. A fortunate deflection off defender Andy Rose left Crepeau wrong footed and the Caps down 1-0 at the break.
Second gear, still second best
Vancouver came out rejuvenated after half time, determined to control more possession and have a say in the tempo the game was played. Their efforts were rewarded nine minutes into the second half, with Javain Brown regaining possession in an attacking area. His cross soared over the entire RSL defence, and right onto the foot of White at the back post. He tapped home his first for the club, and all momentum leaned Vancouver’s way.
It looked as though the Whitecaps had found a go ahead goal, until Rose’s header hit the bar in the 71st minute. Some more chances came for both sides, none were ever too threatening.
Until the 92nd minute, where an Aaron Herrera long throw found it’s way into the box, where it met the head of Erik Holt who directed it towards the back post and into the net. Against the run of play? Yes. Deserved? Completely.
Kreilach headed home a Justin Meram cross a couple of minutes later to double their lead, with that closing out the game 3-1.
Real Salt Lake defended bravely throughout the 2nd half, and given the control they had over the game in the first half, the team did deserve the full three points. It wasn’t a perfect display by any means, but scoring twice in seven minutes of stoppage time to win a game that wasn’t going your way shows the caliber of team that they are. However a perfect performance may be needed for their next match, as they travel to Seattle on Wednesday to take on the high flying Sounders.
As for Vancouver, it doesn’t get any easier, as they host the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, then they too travel out and take on Seattle. It’s early days still, but Vancouver fans shouldn’t be surprised if White quickly overtakes Lucas Cavallini as this team’s target man. Bringing on Cavallini late on Friday evening killed a lot of Vancouver’s mobility and free flowing attack, something that has been hard to come by this year.