Thoughts from the Pitch: RSL vs. Vancouver Whitecaps


Jack Gambassi

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa (1) celebrates after the team’s 3-1 win vs. the Vancouver Whitecaps at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on June 18, 2021. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Sports Editor


It was a battle of two home teams on Friday night as Real Salt Lake faced the Vancouver Whitecaps at Rio Tinto Stadium. Vancouver is currently playing their 2021 matches in Utah due to the COVID-19 restrictions put in place by Canada. Instead of trying to work their way around those protocols, Vancouver will call Utah home for the time being. 

While Real secured their first victory since May 1, there are several key factors which affected the outcome of the match, and in all honesty, Real got incredibly lucky as they scored two goals in stoppage time, walking away with a 3-1 victory. 

1. Real Created Chances, Failed to Convert Early, But Struck Gold Late

By the end of the first half, Real had six shots, four of which were on-goal, to Vancouver’s two, only one of which was on-frame. While the midfield did a fantastic job of feeding the forwards down the sides and several through balls, the forwards struggled to put the ball in the back of the net. 

To begin, Anderson Julio missed a breakaway in the 6th minute that easily should’ve been finished as it was a two-on-one with the goalkeeper but came up empty. While Vancouver’s goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau made a great save, Julio had the entire net — in addition to an open teammate to his left — but went for the bottom right corner, which Crépeau gobbled up.

In the 18th minute, Rubio Rubin ran down the side on a through ball and sent a cross to Julio, but it was too far behind him. Rubin then had a wide open shot but put it right in the keeper’s chest, squandering another great opportunity.

As time continued into the 21st minute, another cross was sent into the box from Rubin to Julio but it was challenged inside the six and cleared by the defense. 

But finally, in the 43rd, Real put one away on a cross delivered from the left side, flicked on by Albert Rusnák right to the feet of Damir Kreilach, just outside the 18’, which he fired low into the back of the net. Courtesy of the goal, Real would take a 1-0 lead into the locker room.

For the majority of the second half, Real was unable to create any dangerous opportunities. While still dominating in possession, their chances were few and far between. One of the better chances came in the 86th as a cross was delivered from inside the 6’ but was right at the defenders feet and easily cleared after what should have been a dangerous scoring chance.

Lucky for Real, there is a thing known as stoppage time and they were able to score twice in those few minutes, erasing their previous mistakes and propelling them to victory. While those goals were impressive and incredibly timely, Real never should’ve been in that situation.

2. Real Dominated Possession 

Through the first 10 or so minutes, Real couldn’t come anywhere near the ball. However, as the game continued, that drastically changed. 

By halftime, Real had 59% possession and were working the ball around beautifully. The back line was controlling the pace, the midfielders were feeding the forwards and chances were being created. But despite the dominant possession, they were making poor decisions when those chances arrived and restricted the impact of the one-sided possession. 

While possession did drop in the second half, through 60 minutes Real still had roughly 56% of ball possession. However, that didn’t amount to anything as all they did was ping the ball around and failed to create anything dangerous. Additionally, Vancouver scored on a turnover, quickly working their way up the right side and delivering a cross which was placed into the back of the net in the 54th minute. 

By the end, however, Real was able to reclaim 59% possession which heavily benefited their efforts as they continued to press Vancouver, scoring two goals late to claim the victory. 

3. Better at Scoring with Their Heads Than Their Feet

As previously mentioned, Real struggled immensely to finish dangerous chances for the majority of the match. However, in stoppage time, Real found the back of the net multiple times using their heads.

In the 92nd minute, a throw-in was launched from near the right corner, finding the head of Erik Holt to be deflected into the bottom left corner, giving Real the late lead. 

While the match seemed to be over, Kreilach secured the lead in the 95th minute as he scored on a breathtaking diving header which the keeper had no chance of stopping. If you can’t score with your feet, use your head.

Overall, Real dominated this match and were rewarded for their efforts late with a much-needed 3-1 victory. With the win, Real improves to 3-3-1 and fifth in the Western Conference. They will face the Seattle Sounders next on Wednesday, June 23 with an 8:00 p.m. MDT kick-off. That game can be viewed on ESPN+. 


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