Despite a noticeably improved performance on the pitch, when compared to last week's debacle, the Vancouver Whitecaps fell to a very-much-game-but-unfortunately-still-undefeated Real Salt Lake squad, 1-0. Overall, the 'Caps played with a confidence unaffected by last Saturday's result, but ultimately could not figure out the final third for now three games running.
The back five of David Ousted, Jordan Harvey, Tim Parker, Kendall Waston, and Fraser Aird remained in tact from last week's loss to D.C. United, though three changes were made to the previous lineup. Matías Laba drew back in to the starting eleven, coming off his suspension, while Octavio Rivero and Nicolás Mezquida both recovered from injuries to replace Blas Perez and Masato Kudo.
The early going of the match was extremely positive: the mentality of the Whitecaps seemed to have changed from previous weeks in that possession of the ball was an appreciated commodity. The team was completely comfortable with cautiously bringing the ball up to center, and only then start looking for through-balls to the attacking players.
In this display of patience, the 'Caps could wait for the right moment to strike, as evident when Rivero's first chance slid wide within the first 5 minutes:
Meanwhile, defense of the counterattack was kept relatively simple, with the biggest early threat neutralized as Tim Parker was able to step in front of Juan Manuel Martinez's close range shot:
So, the moment they display some stout depending, how do the Whitecaps respond? The same way they have in most of the past 337 minutes of open play: by getting close to the end line without putting the ball over:
Rivero had one final, great chance before the end of the first half, being sent on a long run by Mezquida but unfortunately put it straight at Nick Rimando:
In that clip you'll see that the trailing, wide open Mezquida was noticeably and understandably frustrated with the effort as it was headed to safety. However, when Rivero does feed him the ball, he's unable to make the most of it:
In a reverse of what we'd seen so far, RSL now began to carry the play and dominate possession. And when that happens, unless you're the 2016 Vancouver Whitecaps, the result should be the following:
On the play itself, Aird was unfortunate to stumble so far up the side line, but it ultimately left Joao Plata free to move down the wing and feed Martinez, who then stepped around Waston and comfortably slot past Ousted.
From that point on, the 'Caps again maintained possession, but with the clock dwindling and an equalizer not coming, play for the Whitecaps became hopeful at best and sloppy at worst (though in all fairness, Parker's clearance off the line was high quality). With not much time left, all that could be mustered were yellow cards borne out of frustration (don't worry, Octavio: we feel this way about your play, too).
So what can we take from all of this?
The good news: the silver lining is that the team was demonstrably better overall than they were last week.
The bad news: you won't find "Silver Linings Won" listed in any soccer standings in the world (though they may help you win a dance off).