Playing the second game of a three-match road spell, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-6L-7D) fell to a 2-0 defeat at Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake (6W-2L-2D) in Major League Soccer on Saturday evening.
After earning a draw with 10 men at Chivas USA on Wednesday night, Whitecaps FC struggled to contain Real Salt Lake, who looked the better side throughout this weekend contest at Rio Tinto Stadium. Jason Kreis' side took all three points with a first-half goal from Jean Alexandre and a second-half strike from Fabian Espindola. Saturday's defeat extended Whitecaps FC's winless run in MLS to 13 matches, with the Blue and White still in search of their first victory away from home in the league.
"Tonight, it just wasn't good enough in so many aspects of the game, especially when you look at the amount of 50-50 balls we lost," said Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn. "This league, especially on the road, is a difficult league, and when you have four or five players competing, it's not enough. It takes 11 guys. RSL have a great record at home and we knew that coming in, so we didn't expect it to be easy. When I look at the things we tried to accomplish, we failed at a lot of them. To get results on the road, you need to accomplish them."
Playing their second league match in three days, Soehn made two changes to the starting line-up that faced Chivas USA in midweek. MLS veteran Pete Vagenas made his Whitecaps FC debut in central midfield, as he replaced Cameroonian youngster Alexandre Morfaw. With Eric Hassli suspended for Saturday's game, Russell Teibert came into the starting line-up on the left-hand side of midfield, with Camilo moving into Vancouver's attack to play alongside Davide Chiumiento.
It was a beautiful night for soccer in Sandy, Utah, and the 2009 MLS Cup champions did not disappoint their home fans, as they showed their first-time visitors why they have only lost twice at Rio Tinto Stadium since making it their home back on June 6, 2009.
The first half saw the home side maintain control of proceedings, as Salt Lake had more of the possession and the better scoring opportunities. RSL captain Kyle Beckerman and defender Chris Wingert struck shots wide of the target, while Chris Schuler headed Nelson Gonzalez's free kick off target before Alexandre forced 'Caps right fullback Bilal Duckett to block his close-range shot away for an RSL corner.
The visitors, meanwhile, struggled to create much during the opening half, even though they earned a handful of set-pieces in and around the RSL box. The 'Caps best opportunity before the break came from a Camilo free kick, but the Brazilian's set-piece flew straight into the arms of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Real Salt Lake opened the scoring on 32 minutes, as Alexandre scored his first goal of the season with a neat finish past Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Joe Cannon. The big Haitian was adjudged to be onside when he received Beckerman's through ball and the former Austin Aztex player did well to convert from a tight angle for a 1-0 lead.
Alexandre's goal prompted more chances before halftime from the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League finalists. Cannon made a good save from Tony Beltran on 33 minutes before stopping Argentine striker Espindola six minutes later.
Trailing by the single goal at the break, Soehn freshened up his side with two substitutions. Omar Salgado replaced Teibert and played alongside Camilo in attack, while Morfaw came on for Vagenas in central midfield.
Vancouver's changes, unfortunately, had little impact on proceedings, as Salt Lake picked up where they left by creating numerous chances in the second half. In two instances, Cannon was called on to make important saves to keep Whitecaps FC in the match. On 56 minutes, the 'Caps keeper made a fine save from RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy following a Vancouver giveaway in their own box. Then on 73 minutes, Cannon had to stop Alexandre from scoring his second goal of the game before Espindola struck the rebound wide of the target.
The impressive Espindola would find his way onto the scoresheet by striking home RSL's second goal on 79 minutes. Alexandre took advantage of a Whitecaps FC turnover in midfield before slipping a through ball to the unmarked South American. With time to pick his spot, Espindola struck a fine left-footed shot past Cannon for his second goal of the season and a 2-0 Salt Lake lead.
It was at this late stage that the 'Caps had a bit of rally, as they created three good chances to pull a goal back. On 80 minutes, Shea Salinas took a Camilo pass before striking a close-range shot high and wide of the target, while two minutes later, Duckett forced a good save from Rimando with a far-post header from a Michael Nanchoff free kick, who came off the Vancouver substitutes' bench in the final quarter of an hour to make his MLS debut. On 85 minutes, Rimando secured his clean sheet with a fine save from Alain Rochat's long-distance piledriver.
The final whistle confirmed a well-deserved home win for RSL, as Whitecaps FC were far from their best on Saturday evening. Soehn's side will now return home and prepare for the club's first Cascadia Cup clash as an MLS club, as they travel down Interstate 5 to the Emerald City to face arch-rivals Seattle Sounders FC next Saturday night. Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, make a quick turnaround and head to Ohio for a Wednesday evening clash with Eastern Conference club Columbus Crew.
32' - RSL - Jean Alexandre (Kyle Beckerman)
79' - RSL - Fabian Espindola (Jean Alexandre)
Shots: Salt Lake 24 - Vancouver 7
Shots on Goal: Salt Lake 8 - Vancouver 4
Saves: Salt Lake 4 - Vancouver 6
Fouls: Salt Lake 18 - Vancouver 18
Offsides: Salt Lake 7 - Vancouver 0
Corners: Salt Lake 7 - Vancouver 5
15' - VAN - Jay DeMerit
30' - RSL - Collen Warner
66' - VAN - Gershon Koffie
Real Salt Lake
18.Nick Rimando; 2.Tony Beltran, 28.Chris Schuler, 6.Nat Borchers, 17.Chris Wingert; 20.Ned Grabavoy, 5.Kyle Beckerman, 26.Collen Warner (14.Artur Aghasyan 87'), 22.Nelson Gonzalez (77.Andy Williams 67'); 7.Fabian Espindola, 12.Jean Alexandre (21.Luis Gil 81')
Subs not used: 24.Kyle Reynish, 25.Donny Toia, 30.Rauwshan McKenzie
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon; 3.Bilal Duckett, 6.Jay DeMerit, 50.Mouloud Akloul (13.Michael Nanchoff 75'), 4.Alain Rochat; 22.Shea Salinas, 28.Gershon Koffie, 33.Peter Vagenas (27.Alexandre Morfaw 45'), 31.Russell Teibert (17.Omar Salgado 45); 20.Davide Chiumiento, 37.Camilo
Subs not used: 18.Jay Nolly, 8.Wes Knight, 12.Jeb Brovsky, 14.Greg Janicki
Budweiser Man of the Match: Jay DeMerit