VANCOUVER, B.C. — On paper, it was supposed to be an easier affair than usual for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
In the midst of a push for the playoffs, they had a home match against a Real Salt Lake side which made 10 changes to its starting lineup from last weekend.
But as RSL kept the ball with ease for large periods and created several excellent opportunities, it looked as if it was the Whitecaps, and not Real Salt Lake, which left regular MLS starters out of their squad.
“It's a banana skin,” Whitecaps midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker told reporters following the Whitecaps' 1-0 loss to RSL on Saturday night. “You've got to be careful. Just because they've left their so-called ‘starting 11’ at home doesn't mean that they're going to come there without the right mentality. ... They play a good system, they've got a great system they've been playing all season.
“They never change their system,” he added. “Every player knows their responsibility in that system and it works well for that team and the players they have.”
The Whitecaps largely lacked incision throughout the match, and didn't create much in the way of meaningful opportunities. Following the game, head coach Martin Rennie did little to sugarcoat the result or the performance.
"I don't think anybody played well today apart from maybe David Ousted,” Rennie said. “I think it was a terrible performance from everybody and that means it's a terrible performance from the coach as well. It's a real, real letdown and way below our standard."
The flat performance was made all the more surprising given the stakes – the 'Caps essentially spun their tires Saturday after pulling off a battling win against the Montreal Impact last weekend which seemed to raise hopes and belief that the team would push its way into the postseason.
“I think we had a great opportunity today, at home, to beat a team that had maybe their mind elsewhere,” Ousted said. “I can't explain why we're not there and not taking an opportunity like this, but we need to get back and try to win the next three or four games, and see if we can fight our way in there.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.