The vibes were high for the Vancouver Whitecaps. But after the game against Real Salt Lake, the vibes went from we’re back to it’s so over. Well, it’s not over considering this was the first loss of the season in MLS play for Vancouver.

RSL were a team that was coming off a bye and they looked ready from kickoff. For the Whitecaps, it was a performance that can be described in many words: flat, lacklustre, pitiful or whatever you want to call it.

What we learned from the first half

It was a slow first half for both teams. Real Salt Lake had the bulk of possession for the first 25 minutes but they couldn’t generate a good chance. Their shots kept missing the net. It also did not help that Ranko Veselinovic, Mathias Laborda and Tristan Blackmon maintained their composure and made some key tackles and blocks in the 18-yard box.

For most of the half, the Whitecaps looked good without the ball but not with it. There were a lot of sloppy passes and through balls and RSL’s press was on full display as they had their wingbacks playing so high up the pitch.

However, the Whitecaps got better with the ball as the match went on. Ryan Raposo and Alessandro Schöpf also ended up missing good chances.

The ball movement paid off with a good transition and Brian White finding Damir Kreilach sneaking behind Andrew Brody. That was Kreilach’s first goal with the Whitecaps in MLS play and of course, it was against the team he played the past six seasons with. He did not celebrate.

But despite improving as the half went on and scoring first, there was still work to be done for the Whitecaps.

What we learned from the second half

The work was left unfinished like a teenager refusing to do his homework. Real Salt Lake came out flying in the second half. The Whitecaps ended up chasing them for most of the half. Fidel Barajas, Anderson Julio and Cristian Aranjo in particular made life tough for Vancouver.

As mentioned above, the Whitecaps structure was good in the first half. But in the second, they were bending but not breaking. However, the cracks were showing and they were getting bigger and bigger as the half went on. RSL were pressing and the Whitecaps were chasing them like chickens without heads.

Barajas, by the way, is only 17 and could be a name to watch out for in MLS in the next few years. He hit the post and a crossbar and found Julio who got around Blackmon in the 70th minute to tie the game. That was the first of two assists. Perhaps he also had a math test to study for on the plane back home.

It was at this moment, that the Whitecaps structure fully collapsed like a bridge during a severe storm. They did get looks on goal but the looks they got either missed, were blocked or went straight at RSL goalkeeper Zac MacMath. MacMath drew a lot of boos from the fans in attendance thanks to him taking his time with the ball which eventually got him a yellow card late.

Ryan Gauld and Ali Ahmed lead the way for the Whitecaps. Gauld’s passing was on point and Ahmed impressed with his dribbling. However, their efforts weren’t enough. The final third was missing that final touch or pass.

Pedro Vite and Alessandro Schöpf were alright in the first half but you could tell there needed to be more from them in the midfield. Vite and later Sebastian Berhalter (who came on for Schöpf in the 64th minute.) looked poor in the second half. It was a very uncharacteristic game for Berhalter as he got beaten easily by the RSL players and turned the ball over multiple times.

Real Salt Lake took the lead from Alexandros Katrans’ lob shot that went over Yohei Takaoka. A lot of ball-watching from the Whitecaps there.

Towards the end of the match, the Real Salt Lake players were time-wasting and diving every few seconds. Call it dark arts tactics but it was just ridiculous and annoying. For them, it worked and the Whitecaps were left in the dust after chasing RSL. They were let down and hanging around, crushed like a bug in the crowd.

That is three straight losses to RSL dating back to last season. In all of them, the Whitecaps were up 1-0 and ended up losing 2-1.

Stat of the match

The Whitecaps only managed eight shots in total throughout the game. Real Salt Lake managed 23. Yikes.

What was said

“There’s a few things that happen, they hit the crossbar of the post and for whatever reason, the boys kind of decided to try to do everything on their own and go away from kind of the plan,” said Whitecaps assistant head coach Michael D’Agostino after the match. “Unfortunately, it happens. It’s gonna happen across the course of the season, but when things aren’t going our way, we almost need to reset and just go back to the tactics. Unfortunately, it didn’t really happen. I think we just got a little bit caught doing things that we don’t normally.”

“What I mean by resetting is just going back to the simple things, the things that we should be doing, not trying to do a little bit extra because things aren’t going our way or trying to do it on our own. I know it’s tough being a player and doing any game like that when you’re under the pin a little bit, but that’s where we really just need to go back and do the simple things right.”

D’Agostino also talked about what specifically lacked from his team.

“We weren’t aggressive enough in our press and we wanted to be clear with them that when we had the opportunities to go and really be aggressive in the press that they could,” he said.

Gauld was the only player to speak to the media and it was clear he was frustrated with the performance.

“I just felt like it was pretty flat,” said the Whitecaps captain. “We had moments that we kind of picked things up a wee bit, but second half especially I think we didn’t have enough intensity. We didn’t keep the ball enough and to be honest I don’t think we deserved much from this game.”

I don’t think we’re the kind of team that relaxes until the game’s over. I think the intensity, even though we went 1-0 up, we weren’t that great before the goal either. The goal may be papered over a few cracks at the start of the game. But, we’re only four games in. I mean, we were going to lose a game at some point. So, it was better that it happened early. There’s plenty to learn from.”

Best of Twitter

Best hide the pain

Forget the first 25 minutes, Gauld’s face sums up the feeling of Whitecaps fans after full-time.

Best “mid”- field (Ha, get it?)

The midfield was really poor. It also showed how much the Whitecaps miss Andres Cubas and his importance to the team. Cubas and Paraguay were supposed to play a friendly against Russia in Moscow on Saturday but the game was put off indefinitely by a terrorist attack.

Fortunately, Cubas and all the players and staff on both teams are OK.

Best home isn’t where the heart is

It is quite the story that the Whitecaps have gotten their only wins of this young season away from home, especially considering away games have been a struggle the past couple of years. Vancouver has been better at home since coming back from playing in Utah midway through the 2021 season.

So far, only one point has been gained at BC Place. It’s early but the Whitecaps need to prove they give the fans their money’s worth with three straight at home coming up. It was a crowd of 22,178 at BC Place on Saturday evening and that was the fourth consecutive match with over twenty thousand for the club.

But if they want to win fans back, gain new ones and keep on having big crowds, performances like the ones against RSL can’t happen.

Best Heightism

Nothing Takaoka could do about the second RSL goal. Too bad he doesn’t have the ability to stretch like Lastikman. That would be the only way he would’ve made a save.


The Whitecaps play the Portland Timbers in game two of their homestand next Saturday. Head coach Vanni Sartini will be back on the touchline after serving his suspension which was reduced from six to four games.