Tom Soehn knew that it would be a difficult task for his Whitecaps FC to get a result against Real Salt Lake, with only two training sessions under his belt and only three days rest since their last match, but even he must have been surprised to see how much his team struggled against one of the elite teams in MLS.
Though some of their starters were missing, RSL still proved that the ‘Caps remain a distant competitor, as Vancouver fell to a 2-0 defeat at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night, conceding goals in each half to Jean Alexandre and Fabian Espindola.
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“This one’s different,” said captain Jay DeMerit. “The other ones we showed enough character to create chances and get a result. Today, we just didn’t even really show up to create those chances or even build an attack. It’s hard to put your finger on it right now. We’ll have to look at the tape to see where tactically and effort-wise we got it wrong.”
Throughout this lengthy winless streak, Vancouver have at least always looked competitive, but against Salt Lake, they never looked as though they’d pull out a result. RSL exhibited their depth, hardly missing a beat while Arturo Alvarez, Will Johnson, and Alvaro Saborio were absent on CONCACAF Gold Cup duty - not to mention star midfielder Javier Morales, sidelined indefinitely with a broken ankle.
Whitecaps FC, on the other hand, could never seem to find their rhythm in their second match in four days under Soehn.
“It’s been a whirlwind week,” said rookie defender Bilal Duckett after earning his second straight start on the backline. “We’ve just been trying to soak up the tactics and changes, but it’s mostly been said on a white board. We haven’t had a whole lot of time to go through it.”
One of those improvements that Soehn’s squad had been working on was their finishing - which has plagued them throughout the season - but on this day, it didn’t show. The few chances the visitors did have went for naught, with notable chances from Shea Salinas early in the eighth minute, a header from Duckett in the 82nd minute, and a shot from Salinas inside the box late in the 80th minute, all ending without a goal.
Vancouver will need to find their confidence quickly, as they head to Seattle next weekend for one of their biggest matches of the season against Cascadia Cup rivals Sounders FC. That result will depend largely on the first full week of training under their new head coach.
“It’ll be great for us as a team to put to memory the habits that we’re trying to develop under Tommy,” added Duckett.