The Whitecaps began their American dream by heading over to Rio Tinto stadium in order to face Rocky Mountain Cup runners-up Real Salt Lake. A wave of positivity washed over the Whitecaps side coming from an unexpected victory earlier in the week against Canadian opponents Montreal Impact. Surprising no-one, ‘breakout’ hero Fredy Montero got the start up top today, but what not many could have expected was him to line up instead of the Whitecaps’ big offseason DP signing, Lucas Cavallini. Aside from that, the team looked relatively the same save for Ali Adnan getting the start on the wing due to Cristián Gutiérrez’ impressive performance in the left back position.
Here’s a visual for the rest of the details:
It seems as though David Milinkovic is being auditioned for the number 10 role, especially now with the departure of Yordy Reyna leaving a hole in that attacking midfield role. It’s hard to knock Milinkovic though, as he currently finds himself tied as the Whitecaps’ lead assister. Even still, he never does look quite 100% comfortable playing centrally, and the Whitecaps may need to address this problem sooner rather than later if they want their season to end on a positive note while getting the most out of every player.
The Whitecaps began the game with their usual style of play, although possession was more well kept in what looks to be a rapidly maturing side. Unfortunately, aside from an early flubbed corner kick, there weren’t many dangerous goal threats from the ‘Caps in the first ten minutes.
Janio Bikel got the first yellow card of the match after some uninvolved and lax man marking from Ali Adnan made it so he had to take the tactical foul in order to stop a breakaway.
Near the midway point of the first half, the Whitecaps began to look more lively, building attacks with their two Colombian forwards, but the game continued to be a back and forth affair with nothing really testing either keeper, outside of some active looking RSL corners.
One of these corners led to a double punch save by Hasal, which landed at the feet of Pablo Ruiz who shot it from outside of the box, which Hasal promptly deflected that in turn became a header that was saved once again. If anybody needed a reminder of just how solid the ‘Caps’ keeper was, this match, like many before, should demonstrate that the Whitecaps’ keeper position is their most reliable out of the whole team.
In the 40th minute, it seemed that Adnan had broken through on a 1v1 with the keeper, yet he was missing just a bit of agility leading him to go to ground after passing keeper Putna which the referee decided was egregious enough to warrant a yellow for simulation.
A free kick and Ali Adnan shot punctuated the end of the half, but did not spell much as both teams went into the tunnel scoreless at halftime.
One would have to wonder whether Marc Dos Santos would have thought to bring on Cavallini on at half in order to improve their attacking chances and explore a partnership that many were speculating that the Whitecaps were going to start with.
That was not to be, as the Vancouver team came back onto the field exactly how they had left it. RSL began pressuring the Whitecaps with intensity and caused the Whitecaps to drop back into their third, like they have found themselves during a majority of this season.
Luckily that did not seem to deter the Whitecaps, as Dajome crossed the ball from a run into the path of Milinkovic score the game opener in the fifty third minute.
A sloppy defensive play from the Whitecaps caused RSL to run a cross in which Hasal got to but not before Kyle Beckerman collided with his head for his second yellow of the match, putting the ‘Caps at the same 10 man advantage they found against Montreal. The break in play was taken advantage of as Cavallini and Baldisimo came on for Milinkovic and Bikel respectively.
Russel Teibert came off on the 73rd minute and was replaced by Owusu in order to stop the flow of an RSL free kick. Soon enough, the Cavallini-Montero connection was teased as Gutiérrez lobbed a cross to the Canadian forward which he swiftly passed off to Montero for a shot that was blocked. Another similar connection followed soon after but ended in a limp shot from Cavallini.
Unfortunately, the ‘Caps’ usual game caught up with them as RSL’s pressure led to a Justin Meram goal.
As teased before, the Montero-Cavallini connection bore fruit as Cavallini slid into his second goal of the season assisted by the commanding Colombian at minute 84.
In a bid to increase defensive stability, Marc Dos Santos brought on Andy Rose for Montero near the end of the 90.
Nine minutes of extra time added more than needed drama to the match for the Whitecaps, as they found themselves in the peculiar situation of being up a man but pressured into their box. The Whitecaps showed their resolve though, as the final whistle blew and gave the ‘Caps their second road win of the season.
Overall, it seems that if the Whitecaps are going out this season, they’re not going without a bit of showmanship. They’re scraping the playoff line and honestly could find themselves in a similar situation to what they did in the MLS is back tournament, that being a small fish in a big pond that has a better than expected run. The Whitecaps’ hardest challenges are ahead of them, so the next two games will be crucial to size up if they’re playoff material or not.