Home MLS Vancouver Whitecaps Whitecaps’ Lee: “I think today we lost because of me”

Whitecaps’ Lee: “I think today we lost because of me”

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Coach Martin Rennie was not a happy man following his squad’s 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.

After coming off an important win on Wednesday against FC Edmonton to move into the Finals of the Canadian Championship, his team had a listless performance on the road in Salt Lake City.

However, Rennie was relatively pleased with how his team started as they remained compact and found a few countering chances but failed to score.

“I think the first half was a good road performance,” said Rennie. “We played quite well. We created some good chances. We didn’t really look at any danger. So it was a solid half from us, but obviously that’s only halfway through the game.”

To be fair, it was a rather boring, uneventful half, but when you are on the road that’s not a bad result. Both sides really lacked any intensity in the opening stanza. The only player for either side who showed a lot of fire was Nigel Reo-Coker, who was very aggressive in the defensive half of midfield, picking up a yellow card for a tackle in the 19th minute and remaining physical for the remainder of the half.

Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, the opening moments of the second half is where the wheels came off.

They set up for a free kick in the 46th minute. Everyone was engaged in the attempted set piece, with only Y.P. Lee back for defensive measure. The free kick sailed over the end-line and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando quickly put the ball back in play to the speedy Joao Plata who gained the advantage on Lee on the right side and put a curling ball into the box to Luis Gil, who was streaking down the middle of the field. Gil made solid contact with a header that beat Joe Cannon giving RSL the 1-0 lead.

“We lost a goal right at the start of the second half of a counter-attack which was frustrating for me,” said Rennie. “We had a free kick, and that was very disappointing. After that I was disappointed with our response.”

The coach indicated that he’s usually quick to fall on the sword when his team has a bad result, but he felt that now is the time for the players to take responsibility.

“I really question them and I think they need to stand up and be counted. I don’t think they showed enough desire. I don’t think they showed enough quality.”

For his part, Lee did take responsibility. He was the one marking Plata on the counter, and felt he could have done better defending the cross.

“I think today we lost because of me,” he said after the match. “I had to block the cross and then I didn’t and they got their first goal. And the first goal makes everything different.”

Unfortunately, for Vancouver that wasn’t the only mental lapse. As the squad started to press further for an equalizer, they found themselves again caught short-handed in the back with another RSL counter-attack, again led by Plata.

This time the home team took advantage of a turnover, and quickly built up through the centre of the pitch. The final exchange came with Plata slotting a square ball to his left where Javier Morales was unmarked in the centre of the penalty area and easily put away the assist for the 2-0 lead.

Corey Hertzog had a chance to pull one back, but didn’t connect cleanly after getting between defender Chris Schuler and Rimando. As a result, Rimando was able to partially deflect the ball before defender Nat Borchers cleared it off the line keeping a clean sheet for RSL.
After the match, the mood in the locker room was very sombre, and perhaps veteran Nigel Reo-Coker epitomized the feelings the best.

“We didn’t deserve to win today,” lamented a very upset Reo-Coker. “The reality right now we have to face and be realistic of the situation – it’s nothing to do with coaches and management. It’s time for us as players, and for me… soft. We’re a soft team. We didn’t compete enough today and we were just soft. For me, we’re soft and we need to toughen up real quick.”

That feeling was shared by his teammates, but many also were resolute that the team could rebound after this, if they just show the character that they feel that they have.

“I think a lot of this speaks for itself, but even bigger than this is how we respond from this,” said youngster Russell Teibert, himself fighting back emotion. “We have a game in a week’s time and we have a cup final in about 10 or 11 days. It’s going to show our character as a team when and how we bounce back from this.”

That will be the key for the Whitecaps as they face as they face the reigning champion Los Angeles Galaxy next weekend at home, and then venture to Montreal for the first leg of the Voyageurs Cup Final on the following Wednesday.

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