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Post Match: Energetic Caps fall in controversial fashion to Real Salt Lake

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VAR: What is it good for?

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Real Salt Lake Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a significant improvement over their week one performance, the Vancouver Whitecaps fell 1-0 to Real Salt Lake in Sandy, Utah after Jake Nerwinski was whistled for his second penalty in as many weeks.

There will be no shortage in controversy, however, as replayed showed little contact between the Vancouver right back and Corey Baird. VAR was not used by match official Drew Fischer, however, and Albert Rusnak converted from the spot.

The lineup saw three changes from last week’s opener: Lucas Venuto slotted in at right wing, replacing Lass Bangoura, Andy Rose replaced Felipe in central midfield and the Derrick Cornelius-as-left-back experiment came to an end, as PC got the start.

The first real chance for either side came out of seemingly nothing. A cross from Yordy Reyna was cleared only as far as In-Beom Hwang, who nearly beat Nick Rimando with an audacious volley from distance. It seemed that MDS gave the Korean more license to get forward and he functioned at times early on almost as a CAM, largely to good effect.

RSL had early chances too, as the insertion of PC didn’t do much to stem the opposition from targeting Vancouver’s left hand side. Brooks Lennon and Corey Baird had success creating chances on the left hand side, although the finishing was lacking from the home side.

For the second week in a row, a massive Jake Nerwinski defensive error hurt the Caps. Beaten by Baird, Nerwinski lunged in to bring the winger down. Or not--replays seemed to show that there was virtually no contact and Baird went down ever so easily. VAR was not used to correct the error however, and Albert Rusnak made no mistake from the spot to put RSL up 1-0.

One can see why the decision was initially given (Nerwinski did poorly and brazenly tried to make up for it) but the contact was made only after Baird went to ground and it should have been reversed.

The Caps didn’t see much of the ball for the next 10-15 minutes. Poor marking off a RSL set piece nearly let them double their advantage, with Damir Kreilach left untouched at the back post but the Croatian couldn’t put the ball on frame and it went out for a goal kick.

At a time when the Caps were already hurting for LB depth, an apparent facial injury to PC Giro after a wayward elbow from Everton Luiz forced MDS into an early substitute on the stroke of halftime. The Brazilian made way for Scott Sutter, who made his Whitecaps debut.

Things improved greatly for the Caps in the final 15 minutes of the half, as they saw both more possession and worked a few half chances in the RSL box. Some real creativity to find openings (especially from Hwang and Venuto) but MDS will be disappointed with the passing in the final third, which let some otherwise bright moments go wanting for the Caps heading into halftime.

The Caps continued their bright start into the second half. We got to witness the prototype of how MDS wants this team to play going forward when, in the 52nd minute, Lucas Venuto forced a turnover off the high press and found Yordy Reyna. The Peruvian was *almost* able to curl his shot on frame to test Nick Rimando.

He wasn’t the most active but Fredy Montero deserves credit for testing the RSL defense in winning some free kicks in advanced places in the second half. Both set pieces went into the wall but it was refreshing to see Fredy flash some nice hold-up play after he was sometimes absent against Minnesota United.

Nervy times for Caps fans in the 63rd minute, when Rusnak had the ball in the back of the net. Drew Fischer quickly waved it off for a rather evident offsides call, despite claims from the Slovenian that the ball had last touched a Vancouver defender. Replays confirmed it as the right call.

Lass Bagoura made his mark on the match, skipping through the RSL defense in a nice individual effort before linking up with fellow substitute Joaquin Ardaiz, who sent his shot from a tight angle just wide.

By and large, Max Crepeau had a strong match and he saved the Caps’ bacon in the 82nd minute, pushing a shot from Kreilach off the bar after a defensive let-off from Vancouver. Another strong save denied Rusnak a second goal just minutes later.

Despite a couple late flurries from the Caps, they couldn’t put anything in the back of the net and fell 1-0. While a disappointing (and controversial) result, they largely outplayed RSL in the second half and will feel hard done not to have taken at least a point from Rio Tinto.

Thoughts:

  • That ball from Hwang to Andy Rose in the first half was scrumptious. I mean look at it:

Too bad the midfielder couldn’t come up with a finish (I like to think Fredy Montero finishes that chance) but that kind of ball has been lacking ever since Pedro Morales departed the club. Hwang was the best player on the pitch and I honestly believe he can be a top-5 central midfielder in the league by season’s end. Oh and all the people in my Twitter mentions last week saying he isn’t anything special can GTFO.

  • I KNOW they’re legends but a modern MLS team should not still be starting Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando. Beckerman was a statue and frankly should’ve had two yellow cards midway through the first half.
  • So VAR is used to give marginal handball penalties (which by definition involve “clear and obvious error”) but not to overturn a clear dive? The TSN broadcast said the VAR team went through the requisite protocol--except there was not effort on the part of Drew Fischer to pause the match and speak with the replay officials. As an aside, Baird should be hearing from MLS HQ with at least a fine for simulation (not that that will do much to console Caps fans).
  • I thought Ardaiz and Bangoura were excellent coming off the bench. Obviously MDS sees these guys in training and I don’t, but I was surprised that he thought Venuto offered more based off his work in practice this week. Bangoura gave RSL fits seemingly constantly after replacing his Argentinian counterpart. I think Lass ultimately is a better fit for what MDS wants this offense to look like but ultimately I would imagine both will see meaningful minutes.
  • Thought Godoy was strong again and, despite some weak moments on the ball from Doneil Henry, the pair are starting to form some chemistry. Honestly that partnership, while not as sharp as it needs to be, is ahead of schedule based off what I was expecting.
  • Wasn’t the result anyone wanted but some clear improvements from Vancouver over week 1. Passing in the final third must improve but I think, on the balance, a draw would’ve been a fairer result. Given the amount of turnover, however, there are more positive signs than I was expecting at this stage in the season.
  • Ali Adnan can’t get here soon enough.