It had been four years since Real Salt Lake suffered four knockdowns in a row. On Thursday night, however, they again tasted the bitterness of a four-game losing streak after falling 3-0 at Vancouver.
Bolstered by two penalty kicks – one in each half – converted by Camilo, the Whitecaps ran away with the victory. But it was the first call, a handball that resulted in the immediate ejection of RSL midfielder Collen Warner, that was the turning point in the match for RSL.
“We put ourselves behind the eight ball early with two PK calls and we didn’t react extremely well from that,” RSL assistant coach Jeff Cassar told reporters after the match. “The effort just quite wasn’t up to par. You could tell Vancouver came out with a little bit of edge and once that PK happened with the ejection, we were really forced into a situation that we didn’t want to be in.”
With head coach Jason Kreis looking on from a suite as he dealt with a bout of food poisoning, Cassar was forced to patrol the sidelines and watched helplessly as Whitecaps center back Jay DeMerit headed a ball that hit a downed Warner on the shoulder, prompting the referee to blow the whistle, point to the spot, and pull the red card from his pocket.
“We saw the review of it and it definitely hits Collen Warner’s hand and I think the [PK] call is fine, a little bit debatable, but I think the red card ejection was a bit harsh,” Cassar said. “I talked to the fourth official and he said the referee though that Collen had intentionally did it, we feel differently, but that’s how it goes.”
Though he agreed with the ref’s decision to award the penalty, Cassar still made a call for instant replays to ensure that the play is whistled correctly or overturned if erroneous.
“I’m a proponent on getting the call right, and if that takes an instant replay, I’m for it because you can see how tides can turn so quickly from these calls,” said Cassar, echoing sentiments that Kreis has expressed in the past.
Down to 10 men, RSL were unable to get going. In the second half, with the team still on their heels, another hand ball – this time from RSL defender Chris Schuler – and another Camilo conversion from the spot put the nail in the coffin.
And if that weren't enough, Vancouver's Nizar Khalfan buried an 88th-minute volley to seal the 3-0 win for the home team.
“I don’t think Vancouver outplayed us, I think we outplayed ourselves and we made a few silly mistakes," said Nat Borchers. “I thought in the first half, for the most part, we dominated possession but we gave away a few silly balls and we didn’t respond well. That was the difference in the game.”
Having been outscored 12-2 in their last four matches, RSL know that the figure is a cause for concern.
“We’re going to concentrate on the little details that have been slipping away the last couple of weeks,” Cassar told ESPN700 Sports Radio after the match. “Good solid defending principles have slipped away the last few weeks, but we have the characters. We have the players in the locker room to turn that around quickly.”
RSL’s next match isn’t until October 14, when they travel to face the Colorado Rapids. By then, the eight-player cadre unavailable to partake in the Vancouver match due to reasons from international duty to card accumulation – which included captain Kyle Beckerman and forwards Fabián Espíndola and Álvaro Saborío – should be available to attempt to put a stop to the team’s slump.
“[The losing streak] it is concerning,” Cassar admitted, “but we feel we have the leadership in the locker room to overcome that and once we get everybody back and healthy. We feel good about ourselves, but we will have to put it in on training starting Monday.”