SANDY, Utah — With the MLS playoffs looming for both clubs, Real Salt Lake and the Vancouver Whitecaps were unable to generate the energy, focus or creativity to create that one moment of brilliance that could put the ball in the back of the net. In the absence of that, the two sides played to a 0-0 draw at a sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night.
The result leaves RSL in suspense about where they will play their opening match in the MLS playoffs. They know they will play the Seattle Sounders, but the seeding remains up in the air. Currently, RSL are in 2nd place, one point ahead of the Sounders. Because of that, they would travel to Seattle next weekend and then play at home the following week. However, they must wait for the result from Seattle's match at the LA Galaxy on Sunday night. If Seattle earn a win or a draw, they will overtake RSL for second place and claim homefield advantage in their playoff series, which means RSL would host Seattle at Rio Tinto next week.
Vancouver, meanwhile, know their next destination: Southern California, where they will take on the Galaxy in the Western Conference Knockout match on Thursday.
That capacity crowd at Rio Tinto must have been surprised to who was wearing Claret and Cobalt at the kickoff. Out of the lineup Saturday night were regulars Nick Rimando, Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave, Javier Morales and Will Johnson. Coach Jason Kreis had enough trust in the depth of the team as Jonny Steele, Kenny Mansally, Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Kyle Reynish started in their place. RSL also welcomed back Ned Grabavoy, who had missed the previous three games with a groin strain and put in a solid 63 minutes of work in his return, and Alvaro Sabrio, who was suspended for RSL's CONCACAF elimination for yellow card.
The Whitecaps started a more familiar lineup, switching in forward Dane Richards and Darren Mattocks as they have been apt to do as of late.
Sabo made his presence felt early on with a drive from 30 yards that went just wide left of the net in the sixth minute. He was also a menace in the box with his ever-dangerous head. Vancouver goalkeeper Brad Knighton was tested in the air on several early crosses, but he was up to the task.
With the game remaining scoreless the first 15 minutes, Real became the second team (Houston in 2009 was the first) in MLS history to go an entire season without surrendering a goal in the opening quarter-hour.
It was only a minute after that mark when Richards nearly got the opening goal. The speedy Jamaican received the ball on the left side of the penalty area, and after a couple of quick moves on defender Tony Beltran, fired a right-footed shot that hit the side-netting.
While the home squad dominated with 69 percent possession, neither Knighton nor RSL goalkeeper Kyle Reynish had much action for long spells. Reynish made a nice save on a free kick, and Knighton saved a Saborio blast from the left side, but otherwise the sides didn't create many clear-cut scoring chances before the break.
OPTA CHALKBOARD: RSL dominate possession
The Whitecaps believed they should have taken the lead in the 57th minute. On a free kick taken from the right side, Mattocks headed in a near-impossible angle cross to beat Reynish, only to have it disallowed for a very questionable offside call.
Real continued to tinker with their lineup in the second half as Sebastian Velasquez and newly acquired David Viana, making his home debut, entered for the final 27 and 20 minutes, respectively. Vancouver countered with inserting Barry Robson for Mattocks and Kenny Miller for Richards.
The coaches were searching for a way to pull out a full points, but regardless of who was on the pitch, the offense never seemed to get clicking for either side and a scoreless draw was almost the inevitable result.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Alvaro Saborio||RSL striker had 7 shots, but only one hit the target. Still, the most threatening player in a lackluster match.|
|2||Jay DeMerit||Caps' captain still has the mullet -- despite his pledge -- and he's still playing top-notch defense.|
|3||Chris Wingert||Slotted in at centerback, the veteran defender contained Vancouver's speedy attack admirably.|