Salt in the Wound: Vancouver Whitecaps extend winless run to 8 games with 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake

The Vancouver Whitecaps extended their winless run to 8 games on Wednesday, as they fell 4-0 to Real Salt Lake. Here is our match report from that one. 

Despite seeming close to rock bottom, things just went from bad to worse for the Vancouver Whitecaps. 

Winless in 7, the ‘Caps were looking to build off of the positive momentum of back-to-back road draws against the Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas heading into their clash with Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, as they looked to find a bit of momentum before a short break. 

Playing at ‘home’ in Utah, their ‘home-away-from-home’ for the time being due to ongoing border restrictions, it was always going to be strange to play at Rio Tinto Stadium as the home team for the usual hosts, RSL, but they certainly didn’t expect to lose 4-0, either. 

But as things tend to do in this business, they continued to snowball for the Whitecaps on Wednesday, as they gave up a first-minute goal en route to what turned out to be a mini-drubbing. 

It wasn’t as if the ‘Caps played horrible, but they just weren’t on the same page as each other for most of the game, and the result showed that.

“After a result like this, we need to talk to each other,” ‘Caps midfielder Janio Bikel said. “And see what we can do better and turn a page. It’s hard. I don’t know what to say.”

Now, heading into this 10-day break because of the Gold Cup, they remain firmly planted to the bottom of the Western Conference with 9 points, only 1 point off of Inter Miami and Toronto FC for last in the league. 

With 22 games still remaining, there is still time for the ‘Caps to turn around the ship, but they have to do so as soon as possible, because if not, this season will quickly slip away from them before they realize it. 

“I believe that if we do everything that we have to do as a club, we could turn it around,” ‘Caps head coach Marc Dos Santos said after the game. 

But to start, things would go from bad to worse for the Whitecaps, as RSL opened the scoring less than a minute into the game. 

After a nice ball in behind the ‘Caps backline, Justin Meram did well to flick the ball to Damir Kreilach, and from there, the RSL #8 did well to get a toe to the shot, which deflected off of Erik Godoy and over Thomas Hasal to open the scoring for the visitors. 

For the Whitecaps, it was a tough early blow to stomach, both for the young Hasal, who had to deal with a nightmare return to the ‘Caps goal, as well as for the team itself, who are yet to win a game in which they conceded the first goal.

And from there, RSL continued to chase a second, as well, doing a good job of getting the better of the chances despite the ‘Caps best attempts to hold possession. Cristian Dajome did come close with a left-footed effort in the 12th minute, but other than that, it was mostly one-way traffic towards the Whitecaps goal for the next 30 minutes. 

Despite that, Hasal stood tall to the task, as he first denied Albert Rusnak with a nice low save in the 21st minute, before doing well to get his body in front of a Bobby Wood header in the 28th minute, building his confidence with each stop. 

Thanks to that, the ‘Caps then started to grow back into the game, much as they have the last few games where they conceded the first goal. Caio Alexandre came close in the 35th minute, as he managed to win back the ball and unleash a good low shot, but his attempt sailed just wide of the goal. 

A few minutes later, Deiber Caicedo stepped up to a free-kick that he won, but his curled effort would be easily saved by David Ochoa, who did have to move to get to the shot, but his dive was more comfortable than what the ‘Caps would’ve liked. 

At the other end, RSL then found a couple of nice chances, as Danny Toia had a couple of shots from outside of the box after a corner, but Javain Brown managed to throw his body in front of the full backs efforts, keeping his team within 1 heading into half time. 

For the ‘Caps, it wasn’t the worst half, as they had actually done well to control most of the ball, holding 55% possession, but they didn’t generate enough chances, making it hard for them to recover from the opening goal. 

Heading into the 2nd half, they needed to find a way to change that as soon as possible, because if not, another game without a win loomed for the ‘Caps. 

“I think it ended 60/40 the ball possession in the first half,” Dos Santos said. “We were feeling good, in control, but not enough decisive moments with the last pass, with the cross, in attacking the space, we weren’t able to do that.”

And to start, they found some of the directness needed to get back into the game. Brian White first had a good chance to score in the 50th minute, as he found himself all alone behind the RSL defence, but his shot would be saved by Ochoa, and he did appear to be offside, anyways. 

Soon after, Cristian Dajome whipped in a lovely low ball into the back post, but Caicedo just couldn’t sort his feet out in time, shanking the ball off of his shins and wide, much to the relief of a scrambling Ochoa in goal. 

But having missed those glorious opportunities, you just had a feeling that those would come back to haunt the ‘Caps, and that would prove to be the case not long after in the 57th minute. 

Shortly after a fantastic save from Hasal on Kreilach inside of the box in the 56th minute, Meram whipped in a lovely ball to the game’s first goal scorer on the ensuing corner, finding his #8 for his second of the game, which came via a nice cushioned header. 

That would prove to be a tough blow for the Whitecaps, as it left them starting up the barrel at a 2-0 goal deficit with 30 minutes to go, which was no easy task against a solid RSL team. 

Luckily for them, too, Hasal would then save them from going down by 3 in the 60th minute, as he managed to get a hand to a nice Rubio Rubin effort inside the box, before the post saved him on the ensuing rebound, which was rattled off of the woodwork and out by Albert Rusnak. 

Given a boost by that stop, the ‘Caps started to find some life, getting off some good chances. First, Deiber Caicedo sent a curled effort just wide from the edge of the box in the 64th minute, before setting up White with a nice pass in the 66th minute, but the ‘Caps striker didn’t find a way to get a shot off despite being in all alone. 

And that would once again prove to be costly for the ‘Caps, as RSL would once again punish them for their lack of cutting edge. Once again, it would be Meram, as well, with the veteran doing well to win a penalty in the 73rd minute, giving his team a chance for a third. 

Knowing that, Albert Rusnak stepped up to the spot, and he made no mistake with his effort, putting it past Hasal into the corner, despite a pretty good dive from the young goalkeeper to almost get a hand to the strike. 

From there, RSL would cruise to the finish line with all 3 points, even grabbing a 4th in the 94th minute thanks to Anderson Julio, giving them a memorable victory in front of their ‘home’ fans. 

For the Vancouver Whitecaps, though, it was a tough loss in a string of them, as they extended their winless run to 8 games. 

Without some of their best players, it was always going to be tough to grab a result, but despite that, to lose 4-0 like that has to hurt, as they played far from their best on Wednesday. 

At a certain point, they need to find a way to get results, and pronto, because if not, the season might be too far out of reach for them already, especially if this run continues. 

“We don’t deserve to have 9 points,” Dos Santos said of his team’s start. “But we don’t deserve to have 16 points, either. Maybe we deserve to have 12 or 13, so 9 is heavy on us, but we have to find solutions.”

Player of the Match: Deiber Caicedo

Moving on, it was hard to pick a player of the match in a drubbing like this, but Deiber Caicedo stood out among ‘Caps players on Wednesday, making him the easy choice for player of the game. 

Although his finishing could use a bit of work, he did well to get into dangerous areas all night for Vancouver, causing problems for the RSL defence. He had 4 shots, including 1 on target, as well as a whopping 5 successful dribbles, and 3 fouls won. 

Plus, had his teammates been a bit more alert, he also could’ve had a few more key passes and maybe even assists, so overall, it was a good showing from the ‘Caps young Colombian winger. 

Amidst this bad run of form from his team, he’s continued to be a bright spot for Vancouver, and that was once again the case on Wednesday. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Thomas Hasal

Otherwise, we picked Hasal as our player to watch in this game, but unfortunately for him, it just wasn’t his night on Wednesday, starting with the early goal. 

Overall, he was actually pretty solid, making some huge stops, but his defence did him no favours on some of the goals, which made it hard to put the result on him. 

Having not played a competitive game in nearly 10 months, though, you have to imagine that with more reps, the Hasal of last summer will come out, so hopefully this is just the start of what’s to come from him for the next few weeks, where the ‘Caps will remain without Crepeau due to international duty. 

Heatmap of the Match:

Elsewhere, it was actually a decent performance from the ‘Caps in this section, one of their best of the season, but it was all for naught, as suggested by the scoreline. 

As seen here, they did a good job of controlling the ball, as suggested by their 56% of possession, but they didn’t just do enough with it, and didn’t keep RSL out of the dangerous areas, making it hard for them to win. 

xG Plot of the Match:

That’s also suggested by the Expected Goals (xG) plot, because despite holding more of the ball, RSL had the better chances by a wide margin. 

As the saying goes, it doesn’t matter how much you have the ball, but it’s about what you do with it, and the ‘Caps didn’t do enough with their possession on Wednesday. 

Looking Forward:

So now, it’ll be interesting to see where the team goes after this, as they stare down a 10-day break, before returning to action against the LA Galaxy on July 17th. 

With the prospect of returning to Vancouver on the horizon, that will certainly give a boost to a club needing any sort of shot in the arm right now, but at the same time, it’d be nice if they could head home with a bit of momentum here. 

Right now, however, momentum is nowhere to be found, with the team winless in 8, having only picked up 2 out of a possible 24 points, so they’ll need to find a way to bottle up a good feeling some way or another. 

As the season quickly starts to swirl down the drain, there is still time to turn around the ship, but that time is quickly running out, and hopefully they can find a way to fix things before it’s too late. 

“We have to work hard and use this as motivation to achieve what we want to achieve,” Caicedo said after the game via an interpreter. “We need to achieve what we want for this organization and for us as well. We have to keep working hard and put in the minutes to produce results on the field.”

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LA Galaxy, Saturday, July 17th, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT (Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy)

Cover Photo via: Real Salt Lake/Twitter

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