Where we are at the moment, we’re still a team that’s developing, we’re a work in progress, so the decision was just to be tactically different today, and try to catch them on the counter. I thought we did it numerous times. —Vancouver coach Carl Robinson
SANDY — Real Salt Lake was a frustrated bunch after Saturday’s draw with Vancouver.
Frustrated at the ref for a variety of things, most notably the penalty kick. Frustrated at Vancouver for wasting time whenever possible. And perhaps most of all, frustrated at itself for the continued struggles to consistently find the back of the net.
It was always going to be a grind for RSL.
Coming off a match Wednesday in Toronto, Vancouver coach Carl Robinson made six changes to his lineup in Utah and the message to his players was clear — don’t try and “play” with Real Salt Lake.
“I said, 'Be aggressive. We don’t get outworked and we don’t get outfought.' They are a good footballing team — one of the best teams when they’re on their game. If we got into a football match with them, after a road trip, we’d probably lose the game,” said Robinson.
“Where we are at the moment, we’re still a team that’s developing, we’re a work in progress, so the decision was just to be tactically different today, and try to catch them on the counter. I thought we did it numerous times.”
It’s nothing new for Real Salt Lake fans to see a team bunker at Rio Tinto Stadium, but it was refreshing to hear Robinson acknowledge so afterward.
Robinson said he’s striving to build a “footballing” culture like Real Salt Lake that plays simple, effective soccer.
“We will get there, there will be a day where we can come here and try to out-football them, but that might be a long way away,” said Robinson.
Days when Rio Tinto visitors try and play toe-to-toe with the home side are very rare, something RSL has certainly come to grips with all these years, but clearly still gets frustrated by.
“It’s just tough to play. You got one team coming in for a tie — winning is second or third on their list — it’s tough to break down a team like that,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.
“You got guys trying to slow the game down, taking their time on goal kicks, just taking the rhythm out of the game. That’s frustrating because we’re trying to play some soccer in front of a packed crowd tonight, and there were a lot of stop-start type of stuff. It’s not as fun as it could have been for the fans and for the game of soccer, and that gets frustrating sometimes.”
If there’s a silver lining for the fans, it’s that a new rivalry has been born.
Three months ago, Vancouver scored two very late goals to stun Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium for a 2-2 draw. Saturday’s match featured even more late fireworks in the form of goals and yellow cards.
Now, whenever RSL’s players or fans see the Whitecaps on the schedule down the road, there will be an extra buzz about the match.
The rivalry might not be on the same level as Los Angeles, Kansas City or Seattle just yet, but Saturday was the first step.
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.