We did enough to get a point or come out with three. They were just a little bit more clinical in front of goal and scored the goals that they needed. —RSL captain Kyle Beckerman
VANCOUVER, B.C. — It’s not a death blow to Real Salt Lake’s hopes of making Major League Soccer’s playoffs, but the road ahead is now much tougher.
Falling 3-2 to the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday night at BC Place in front of a crowd of 20,783, RSL missed an opportunity to go level on points with one of their Western Conference rivals, and in the process nose into a playoff position.
With this result, RSL falls to 10-14-5, remaining in eighth place in the West with 35 points.
Instead, goals from Cristian Techera, Kendall Waston and Yordy Reyna proved decisive for the Whitecaps, and in the end proved too much for the visitors, who rare goals from Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran.
“We did enough to get a point or come out with three,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. “They were just a little bit more clinical in front of goal and scored the goals that they needed.”
RSL’s misery began in the 29th minute, as Techera scored from close range. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando managed to get a hand on the ball, but from that range he couldn’t do enough to push it wide of danger.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to respond, as Wingert sent a dangerous ball into the area from the left side. It was a ball intended for center Yura Movsisyan but it ended up just missing his head, forcing Whitecaps’ goalkeeper David Ousted into a save. The Danish netminder looked uncomfortable on the play, swatting the ball up and over his own head before it spun into the goal to level the match at one goal apiece.
Though having played well more than 300 matches in MLS, the accidental strike was only Wingert's second career goal in this league.
Ultimately, it was the second half that proved RSL’s undoing, as the Whitecaps found another gear while the visitors fell flat.
“They played exactly how we thought they would,” said RSL coach Mike Petke. “We, for large chunks, played the way we wanted to, it’s just that the quality, for some reason, from certain players – awful pass here, awful pass there, a missed touch here, a little bit out of position – those things happen.
“But great resiliency and grit for us to come back. We had opportunities to get the tying goal and possibly even a winning goal, but it wasn’t on the night.”
The Whitecaps pushed into the lead for the second time in the match through their captain, Waston. The big Costa Rican international blasted home a rebound in the 52nd minute, after his center back partner, Tim Parker, had headed an effort against the post.
The home side iced the match in the 64th minute through Reyna, a Peruvian international. The attacker scored with a diving bullet of a header, getting on the end of a cross from winger Bernie Ibini.
RSL made Vancouver sweat in the final 10 minutes, as Beltran finished inside the area, getting on the end of a lovely chipped pass from Jefferson Savarino.
In the end, the scoreline perhaps flattered the Whitecaps. RSL had legitimate opportunities beyond their goals, namely two second-half attempts from Justin Glad and David Horst. Glad had perhaps the better of the two opportunities, heading the ball down and forcing Ousted into a diving save to his left in the 55th minute.
Three minutes later Horst made Ousted work again, rising well in the area to head a powerful ball toward the target that Ousted had to push away acrobatically.
Now, RSL must prepare for the final stretch of the season. The club has five matches remaining to pick up points and sneak into one of the Western Conference’s top six spots and qualify for the postseason.
Next up is the Portland Timbers, one of the Western Conference’s top sides. That match is next Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“Mathematically we’re well in it,” said Petke. “The only thing going against us is that we’ve played a couple of more games – I think it’s coming close to evening that out, but we have two games coming up at home, three games at home left and we have two game on the road. We have to take care of our business and hopefully rely on some other teams.”