What we learned vs. Real Salt Lake

Squad game, unbeaten for a reason, and never say die

Two One Mezquida goal

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports Images

Things looked grim at halftime after conceding twice in the first 10 minutes, but a much better second half and dramatic equalizer got our ‘Caps another road point in a 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake.

So, what did we learn?

Squad game

Highlights: Real Salt Lake 2-2 Vancouver Whitecaps FC

A couple weeks ago, there were fans urging Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson to start Kekuta Manneh after impressive performances off the bench. I’m sure there will be more than a few now wanting to see Sebastián Fernández and Nicolás Mezquida included in the starting lineup after their heroics in Saturday’s match.

This is what Robinson has been preaching since the start of the season. It’s a 25-man squad game with everyone contributing. With Mezquida’s goal on Saturday, seven different players have scored for the ‘Caps this season, which is tied for the league-high with FC Dallas. And four of them are 24 years old or younger.

As with any young players, there’s always going to be highs and lows throughout the season and it’s Robinson’s job to find a balance and use them wisely. When Erik Hurtado and the two Uruguyans came off the bench, it had the desired effect in what was a dramatic ending to the game.

Once again, the bench was the difference for the ‘Caps, giving Robinson some more welcome problems about who to start next weekend against San Jose Earthquakes.

Unbeaten for a reason

Joao Plata gets RSL on the board in the second minute

There’s no denying that our first-half performance was disappointing, but you have to give credit to this Salt Lake team for the way they started the game. Their forwards harassed our defence at every opportunity, they caused turnovers, and they controlled the midfield with slick passing and good movement off the ball. And, of course, they were clinical with their two goals.

Head coach Jeff Cassar had a tough job replacing Jason Kreis and taking over a team that’s been one of the finest the last couple of years, including last year when they reached the MLS Cup finals. But he has kept the same philosophy for his team with good ball posession and added a more up-tempo style.

So far, it’s working as RSL are the only remaining unbetan team in the league. They’ve played a number of in-form teams in LA Galaxy, twice Sporting Kansas City and Toronto FC and nobody has managed to beat them. They showed in the first half that they’re going to be right up there with the best teams again this season.

Never say die

Sebastian Fernandez scores a stoppage-time stunner

Ten of Vancouver’s 12 goals this season have come in the second half and five of them have come after the 80-minute mark. This stat will not do anything for Robinson’s heart or stop him from getting grey hairs, but it shows that this team has a never day die attitude.

I predicted an exciting 2-2 draw at the Official Whitecaps FC Viewing Party and even when we scored in the 86th minute to make it 2-1 I still felt it was a morale victory for our second-half performance, but I should have known better.

Against LA, the boys showed guts and determination to tie the game up late. And after being battered in the first half by an in-form Salt Lake team, they picked themselves up, dug deep, and earned a valuable point on the road with a courageous comeback.  

Of course, our ‘Caps need to eliminate first-half performances like we saw on Saturday, but it showed a resilience to bounce back from that and still believe right untill the end that they could get a result. Some might say the ‘Caps were fortunate to come away with a point, and maybe they were. But the fact that they didn’t roll over after going down 2-0 against a team of RSL's caliber is certainly a reason for optimisim.

It’s not too late to participate in the best sporting experience in Vancouver. Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including prorated season tickets ($294), half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets ($199), and a youth soccer half-season ticket ($100). Single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.