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Match Report: Karma Gets Assist as Caps Draw in Utah

Somewhere deep in the annals of sporting lore someone once came up with "Ya gotta be lucky to be good." Last night in Sandy, Utah it was the Vancouver Whitecaps' turn to be (ahem) very, very good.

Things got a little testy at Rio Tinto Saturday night, as the Caps and Real Salt Lake drew 1-1.
Things got a little testy at Rio Tinto Saturday night, as the Caps and Real Salt Lake drew 1-1.
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Real Salt Lake And The Grand Scheme of Things

In the end, it was a run-of-the-mill 1-1 draw between the Caps and Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto stadium, where Vancouver have never won in Major League Soccer. But if you've studied the blue-and-white closely this season, you'll have noticed that karma has continued with its quirky way of evening things out over time.

The karma connection began earlier in the week it was David Ousted having a ball kicked from under his hand while trapping it against the turf. Now where have we seen that before? Fortunately, the referee that night appeared to be versed in the little subsection of Law 12 that says: "Nice try, but no goal."

That little bit of cosmic justice came against Toronto FC, in a 1-1 final after Vancouver squandered a 1-0 lead in the second half when Nigel Reo-Coker inelegantly put himself in a bad position in the penalty area, and was assessed a softish penalty for his troubles.

Last night Vancouver would again blow a 1-0 lead - this time just nine minutes short of regulation time. But it wasn't without a twist.

Both goals last night came off huge mistakes. The game-tying marker by Joao Plata was the direct result of Caps RB Steven Beitashour getting drawn into a far too narrow position and giving up acres of room behind him. And the opening tally - just seven minutes earlier - came when Darren Mattocks was awarded a penalty by referee Edvin Jurisevic, who appeared to have lost his mind on the play, or perhaps more charitably might not have had the best view of it. Replays unequivocally showed that CB Nat Borchers' tackle on Mattocks was a clean one.

For the record, Mattocks converted easily, side-footing a low drive to the left corner of the goal.

So, in the grand scheme of things, it would seem that the breaks have balanced out for the Caps in what's been a very busy week with three matches in eight days.

The Match Itself

Beitashour's blunder aside, Vancouver played well defensively - particularly in the midfield, where I lost track of the number of heady interceptions and recoveries - but at times the back line devolved into fire-drill mode in front of Ousted, as RSL were able to penetrate the box, but much like Vancouver were unable to finish opportunities.

Again, the storyline of failing to capitalize on opportunity continues for the Whitecaps. Darren Mattocks, Sebastian Fernandez, Omar Salgado, and Gershon Koffie all had quality chances to score for Vancouver, but came up short. In the end, Vancouver mustered nine shots, with four blocked, four off target, and the one goal.

And opportunities were certainly at a premium last night as the Whitecaps returned to a 4-2-3-1 formation, and rested Pedro Morales for most of the night, giving Nicholas Mezquida his first taste of 90 minutes, and his first start at CAM this year. Without Morales there pulling the strings for Vancouver, the team posted season lows in a number of key areas:

Passing percentage - 69%
Number of passes - 197
Possession - 34.7%

In his match preview, Jon Szekeres wondered what the Caps would look like without Morales - he has his answer.

Following Mattocks' penalty, things got heated between the two sides, and very chippy play ensued, particularly if your name's Tony Beltran. Caps coach Carl Robinson elected to bring Morales on at 78', presumably to calm things down for the Whitecaps. But given the testy edge that RSL were playing with at the time, a weary Morales could easily have become another target for Javier Morales' elbows, or worse. One has to wonder if the risk was really worth it.

Besides Mezquida's full-match premiere, it was a game of several other firsts for Vancouver:

  • Forward Omar Salgado made his first MLS start in two years, following an extended series of foot injuries.
  • Midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy got his first start since joining the Caps in January, against his former team, as luck would have it.
  • It was Jordan Harvey's first game back after his straight red sending off versus Chivas.

Was the result predictable given the fact that the team was at the tail end of a two-game road trip that started in the east, and finished up a three-game stint within eight days? Or did that only mask deeper issues that you're worried about with this team? Have your say below.