Leaving it Late (Again): Vancouver Whitecaps continue surge with late 2-1 win over RSL

The Vancouver Whitecaps took on Real Salt Lake in MLS action Saturday. Here’s our match report from that one. 

There continues to be no place like home for the Vancouver Whitecaps. 

Back at BC Place after a short three-game road trip, the ‘Caps picked up where they left off last time out, nabbing a late 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake, continuing their surprise push up the MLS standings in the process. 

After a strong start to the game, as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first half via a Ranko Veselinovic goal, the ‘Caps nearly threw it away in the second half, as a Justin Meram goal put RSL back in it, before a flurry of chances almost got them the lead. 

But having survived that push, the ‘Caps took over at the end, riding some strong substitutions to a strong ending to the game, which allowed them to grab their winner, as Ryan Gauld confirmed their victory in the 91st minute from the penalty spot. 

Thanks to that, it has now pushed the ‘Caps up to 10th in the Western Conference, just one point off the playoff line, all but putting a slow start to the season behind them here. Yet, that just shows how good the ‘Caps have been as of late. 

It hasn’t always been pretty, as it’s often required carefully timed set pieces, some clinical penalties and some gritty defensive moments, but they’ve continued to find a way to get the job done in the clutch moments. Because of that, it’s all of a sudden pushed them into where they are in the MLS standings, as well as into the semi-finals of the Canadian Championship, helping resurrect what had looked like an almost-dead season just a month ago. 

But that’s full credit to the ‘Caps. They knew that their start to the season wasn’t ideal, but they’ve quickly proven that they’re better than that, especially when they have their full allotment of players at their disposal. 

And there is no better example of that than in this game, where it was the bench that helped the ‘Caps as much as the starters, showing what they can accomplish when they have their whole squad firing on whole cylinders in a game. 

“It’s a testament of how the group is really fighting and working at the moment,” ‘Caps head coach, Vanni Sartini, noted afterwards.

He later added: “The guys gave life to the team because, you know, that was five fresh guys that were able to attack the space more, we were able to press a little higher, more again and the reason why we had three chances in the last 10 minutes.”

Returning to the match, however, while things ended nicely, it didn’t always look that way, although the ‘Caps did get off to a strong start. 

As a result, ‘Caps came close to opening the scoring in the third minute, as a dangerous cross into the box found Sebastian Berhalter in a good area, and he’d make good contact with a shot, but his attempt would be easy for RSL’s Zac MacMath to save. 

After that, however, things would quiet down for a bit. As a result, the next best chance didn’t come until the 24th minute, when Leonard Owusu found some open space in a nice position, and the ‘Caps midfielder made good contact on a shot, but he’d send it well over the goal. 

At the other end, RSL then had their first good chance of the game just a minute later, as the ball fell to Maikel Chang inside the box, with the goal seemingly at his mercy. Yet, despite that, he’d send his shot well over the goal, unable to control his shot from in tight. 

Then, continuing a busy stretch of chances, Berhalter had another good look at goal, this time from further out, but he’d get just under his shot, leaving him to send his shot just over the marl. 

And from there, that pressure would finally lead to a goal in the 31st minute. Off of a long throw-in, the ‘Caps would manage to flick the ball into a dangerous area, where it’d find the run of Ranko Veselinovic, who would easily tap the ball home from in close to give his team the lead. 

That was huge, as while the ‘Caps hard arguably controlled more of the play, it felt like they were slowly letting RSL back into it, but thanks to the goal, they quelled those thoughts, at least for the time being. 

But that was the key – for the time being. After making it to half time with the lead intact, RSL came flying out of the gates in the second half, as they looked to claw back the score. 

First, they’d come close to doing so in the 51st minute, as a nice cross into the box met the head of Sergio Cordova, who’d send a great header towards goal, only finding himself denied by a superb save from the ‘Caps Cody Cropper, who seemingly snatched the ball off the line with an acrobatic stop. 

For the ‘Caps, though, the joy that stop would give them would be quite short-lived, as less than a minute later, RSL would find their breakthrough. After a great long ball found the run of Justin Meram, who snuck onto the wrong side of Ryan Raposo, he’d do well to coolly look up and slot home from inside of the box, levelling the score in the process. 

Through that, it’d really give RSL hope that they could complete the comeback, as they really started to control play. 

So seeing that, it’d be no surprise that they’d come oh so close to doing just that in the 61st minute. Off of a long shot from Jefferson Savarino, he did well to force a strong save out of Cropper, leaving a rebound to fall to Cordova for what seemed like a sure goal. 

Or so Cordova thought. Instead, like what happened to him a dozen minutes earlier, Cropper somehow made up the ground and threw himself in front of Cordova’s shot, keeping the game tied with a miraculous stop. 

Continuing their push, RSL would keep knocking on the door into the 72nd minute. This time, it’d be Jasper Loffelsend, who’d do well to unleash a good strike from distance, but his shot would lack the accuracy to threaten the ‘Caps goal, sailing well over the mark. Then, in the 78th minute, Cordova would manage to free himself up for another header at the back post, one that he’d make full contact with, just sending it wide of the target. 

And the pressure would remain relentless from there, almost leading to a breakthrough in the 81st minute. After a nice bit of play, the ball fell to Pablo Ruiz in a dangerous position, where the RSL midfielder would do well to tee himself up for a dangerous shot, one that’d deflect heavily, before just bouncing off the post and out, narrowly keeping the Whitecaps in the game. 

Finally finding their legs again, the ‘Caps managed to etch out a decent half-chance in the 82nd minute, as the ball found second half sub, Marcus Godinho, at the back post, and he’d make good contact on a header, but his attempt would be easily saved by MacMath. 

Through that, they’d then find their late breakthrough. After a nice ball from second half sub, Ryan Gauld, to fellow sub, Luis Martins, Martins would do well to win a penalty, as he was tackled hard by Aaron Herrera inside of the box. 

From there, Gauld would step up to take it, and he’d make no mistake with his attempt, slamming the ball into the top corner to give his team the lead, and seemingly all three points on the day.

Then, with the lead in their back pocket, they did what they needed to in order to not let it slip away, seeing their lead through to the end, allowing them to leave with all three points on the night. 

As a result, that allowed them to keep their good times going, continuing their strong run as of late, one that only seems to get better game-by-game, with this latest win being yet another example of that. 

“At the end, we had our chances,” Sartini said. “But we have to be honest.in the first 35 minutes of the second half, they were the better team, and I’m happy that we did everything, going really the extra mile that we didn’t concede the second goal.”

Player of the Match: Cody Cropper

Continuing to deputize for the injured Thomas Hasal, Cropper continues to stake a claim to at least make the starting discussion interesting when Hasal returns, making some huge stops for his team en route to the victory. 

Plus, he made sure that his impact would be felt in other ways, as well, providing good leadership to his backline, helping them stay organized in key moments. 

Through both of those things, that’d allow them to grab this win, with Cropper playing a starring role in that once again. 

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Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders, Tuesday, June 14th, 19:30 PDT, 22:30 EDT (Lumen Field, Seattle). 

Cover Photo via: Vancouver Whitecaps

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