Home MLS Vancouver Whitecaps Saborio’s two strikes sink unfortunate Whitecaps

Saborio’s two strikes sink unfortunate Whitecaps

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The Vancouver Whitecaps ventured into Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on Friday night looking to gain ground on Real Salt Lake — currently second in the Western Conference — and further strengthen their chances of becoming the first Canadian-based MLS squad to reach the playoffs. Instead they left with a 2-1 defeat, despite a well-fought contest.

RSL’s Alvaro Saborio’s brace, along with a couple of handling calls against Vancouver, would prove to be the difference. The Costa Rican international put away a goal from the penalty spot in the first half and then scored the game winner after the ‘Caps surging rookie Darren Mattocks leveled the score in the 52nd minute.

“I thought we put in an excellent performance tonight,” said head coach Martin Rennie after the match. “I thought we had lots of chances against a good team away from home. It’s frustrating that we didn’t take those chances, because if we’d taken those chances we’d have got ourselves a better result tonight.”

The game was wide open from the early moments. The 4-3-3 of Vancouver proved to be a legitimate challenge matched up against the diamond 4-4-2 of Real Salt Lake. However, despite that movement up and down the field few of those chances spoken of by Rennie appeared in the first half.

The opening goal came off of a seemingly benign play into the box. The ball was chipped in by Fabian Espindola to Kyle Beckerman who was well marked by Jay DeMerit. The two recent All-Star Game participants battled it out, but Demerit was whistled for handling on the play as his left hand came up and made contact with the ball. The Vancouver captain felt the ruling was perhaps a bit harsh.

“My hand came up and did hit the ball, of course,” said Demerit, “but I thought maybe he could have called [Beckerman] for stepping into me as well.”

After the referee pointed to the penalty spot, Saborio stepped up and calmly pushed the ball into the lower left side of the net as Joe Cannon dove in the opposite direction, and RSL entered the break with a 1-0 lead.

The second half was a different story and the ‘Caps came out looking for an equalizer. They took advantage of the first chance they saw in the opening minutes, and drew the score level. Camilo flicked a diagonal ball into space to Mattocks, who got behind his mark and beat keeper Nick Rimando to the ball.

That leveled the score at 1-1, but Vancouver could smell blood and put a sustained flurry of pressure on over the next several minutes. Just moments after the goal, midfielder Jun Marques Davidson struck the post, narrowly missing out on giving his side the advantage. On the rebound, another opportunity was blocked.

That gave Real Salt Lake life, and in the 52nd minute it regained the lead. A flurry of action developed on the right side for RSL, and playmaker Javier Morales found the ball at his feet. He whipped in a cross to the far post, and Saborio rose above defender Alain Rochat and headed the ball home for his 12th goal on the season.

Vancouver appeared intent to once again draw level, but all hopes of that came to a crashing halt in the 72nd minute when the team incurred a second handling penalty. This time ‘keeper Joe Cannon came out of his box to meet a free ball, but was beaten to the spot by Espindola. Cannon tried to stretch out to block the Argentine’s path, but his hand connected with the ball and he was issued a red card and sent off, killing off any hopes of a comeback on the road.

Despite the 2-1 loss, the Whitecaps are still well-positioned to make a run for the first Canadian entry in the MLS playoffs in just their second season. However, DeMerit feels it’s a bit premature to begin thinking about that.

“I think there’s still time for us to make sure that we’re in the right spot,” he explained. “We’ve come a long way in less than a year, but with some new guys coming in in the last couple of weeks, and us still trying to build and get that chemistry we need…we’ll hopefully sort that out in the coming weeks.”

Vancouver will see RSL again in just two weeks — this time in friendlier confines at BC Place. Demerit is looking forward to the rematch.

“Playing a team like Real Salt Lake is always a good measurement of where you are as a team,” he explained. “Hopefully the next time we play them in a couple of weeks we’ll take the chances and get the three points.”

Notes: Both DeMerit and Beckerman participated in the All-Star Game in Philadelphia on Wednesday, however DeMerit stuck with a later flight on Thursday that both players were scheduled to be on, while Beckerman paid for his own flight earlier in the day. DeMerit’s flight ended up cancelled, and he spent the night in New York as a result before continuing on to Salt Lake on Friday.

DeMerit was also scheduled for only 45 minutes of duty in the All-Star Game match, but an unfortunate injury to Sporting Kansas City centre back Aurelien Collen forced him into 90 minutes of service.

However, the veteran of the U.S. National Team wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. “I’ve enjoyed it. I wouldn’t take anything back, except maybe some of the delays and cancellations on my flight.”

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