Real Salt Lake returned to Rio Tinto to host the league leading Vancouver Whitecaps. These two teams met for the first of a three match series. This match was tightly contested with tempers flaring and the referees' influencing more than their fair part of the match.
The Claret-and-Cobalt now hold an even 4-4-4 record across all competitions against the Whitecaps with the Caps capturing their first ever win at Rio Tinto.
The Northern Invaders overcome the Wall of the Wasatch.
Saturday's match saw RSL put in a less than dominant performance on home turf. Not only did the home side struggle to maintain possession but they looked dormant in the first half. Unlike last year's performance against the caps around the same time of year, this Salt Lake side left much to be desired.
Last April, RSL hosted the Whitecaps and battled to a 2-2 draw. The Claret-and-Cobalt stormed out to an early 2-0 lead after nine minutes. Joao Plata found the back of the net in the second minute and then Alvaro Saborio tallied the insurance goal in the ninth. RSL would hold the edge for most of the match but were undone in the dying minutes of the match.
Conceding in the final stages of the match is a disturbing trend that has been quite common between the two sides. In the other two matches between the two sides last year, we continued to see the Caps tally in the final third of the match. Conceding in the 62nd minute and then the 78th in July and then once again in the 73rd minute in September, RSL has been unable to grind out a result against the Whitecaps for over a year.
The Route 9 nature of the Whitecaps has been increasing evident under Coach Carl Robinson. The quick counter-attacking movement of his squad has been the bane of RSL.
This is what Saturday night's goal looked like:
That was quick, right? In that sequence Russell Teibert receives the ball off a Luke Mulholland deflection of a free-kick. Having already beat fullback Tony Beltran - having pulled up due to the free-kick - Teibert has nothing but open ground in front of him. Even with Tony Beltran making the recovery run, Vancouver's ball movement pulled RSL's backline apart.
Beltran did the right thing, but once he is caught out of position, the scoring chance from the cross has already been created. Tony recognized the danger too late, and the goal is conceded. In other words, the Caps' offense was quicker than the Claret-and-Cobalt's defensive recognition.
With RSL battling Vancouver two more times this season, the Claret-and-Cobalt will need to improve defensive tactics in order to evade conceding during counter-attacks. In addition, RSL only managed 44 defensive actions on the night - well below the season average of 62. As CBIs (Clearances, Blocks and Interceptions) become increasingly important to the 4-3-3 formation, defensive recognition is going to be essential going forward.
If RSL can manage to improve their defensive posture, the club can avoid conceding three points to a conference rival.
What do you think? How can RSL improve defensive posture against the counter-attack? Will RSL perform better against the Whitecaps later this season? What do you think that this match foretells about the future of Real Salt Lake? How do you think RSL did in this match? Share your opinions in the comments section below.