Tom Soehn knew that it would be a difficult task for his Whitecaps to get a result against Real Salt Lake with only two training sessions under his belt and only three days rest since their last match, but even he must have been surprised to see how much his team struggled against one of the elite teams in MLS.
Though some of their starters were missing, RSL still proved that the ‘Caps remain a distant competitor as Vancouver fell to a 2-0 defeat at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night, conceding goals in each half to Jean Alexandre and Fabián Espíndola.
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“This one’s different,” said captain Jay DeMerit. “The other ones we showed enough character to create chances and get a result. Today we just didn’t even really show up to create those chances or even build an attack. It’s hard to put your finger on right now. We’ll have to look at the tape to see where, tactically and effort-wise, we got it wrong.”
Throughout this lengthy winless streak, which has now reached 13 games, Vancouver have at least always looked competitive, but against Salt Lake they never looked as though they’d pull out a result. RSL exhibited their depth, hardly missing a beat while Álvaro Saborío, Arturo Alvarez and Will Johnson were absent on Gold Cup duty – not to mention star midfielder Javier Morales, sidelined indefinitely with a broken ankle.
Vancouver, on the other hand, could never seem to find their rhythm in their second match in four days under Soehn.
“It’s been a whirlwind week,” said rookie defender Bilal Duckett after earning his second straight start on the back line. “We’ve just been trying to soak up the tactics and changes, but it’s mostly been said on a white board. We haven’t had a whole lot of time to go through it.”
One of those improvements that Soehn’s squad had been working on was their finishing – which has plagued them throughout the season – but on this day it didn’t show. The few chances the visitors did have went for naught, with notable chances from Davide Chiumiento early in the eighth minute, a header from Duckett in the 82nd minute, and a shot from Shea Salinas inside the box late in the 80th minute all ending without a goal.
Vancouver will need to find their confidence quickly as they head to Seattle next weekend for one of their biggest matches of the season against Cascadia rivals Sounders FC. That result will depend largely on the first full week of training under their new head coach.
“It’ll be great for us as a team to put to memory the habits that we’re trying to develop under Tommy,” added Duckett.
With the season slipping away, players will need a strong memory to turn things around.