SANDY, Utah – There’s something about the Vancouver Whitecaps that brings the crazy to Rio Tinto Stadium.
Saturday marked the second time this season that Real Salt Lake and Vancouver turned in a memorable performance, and for the second time, they settled for a draw.
This time, it was a 1-1 finish, and perhaps a budding-if-improbable rivalry in the making.
Players went nose-to-nose at midfield after a questionable foul on RSL defender Nat Borchers led to a penalty kick goal for Vancouver forward Darren Mattocks.
What followed was a flurry of yellow cards and tempers that rose higher than the summer desert air.
The scuffle very well could have been a carryover from the teams’ first meeting back on April 26, when the Whitecaps (6-4-9, 27 points) scored two goals in the final eight minutes to erase a 2-0 deficit and stun the Claret-and-Cobalt.
Teams don’t just come into the Riot and steal a point, after all. But Vancouver is clearly the exception.
Once order was restored – four bookings later – Joao Plata exacted some revenge against the visitors from the north. He took a touch pass from Kyle Beckerman down toward the left corner, outran Vancouver defender Steven Beitashour, and fired a low line drive to the far post against a diving David Ousted.
Tables officially turned.
It was Plata’s team-leading eighth goal this season, and ended a forgettable streak for the Claret-and-Cobalt. The strike was the first for RSL (7-4-8, 29 points) in open play (non-set piece) in 418 minutes, dating back to June 7 against Portland.
"There’s a lot of talk of not scoring through the run of play, but we got two PKs, that’s through the run of play, so we’ve earned those,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar said after the game. “We’ve just got to continue pushing forward."
The intensity displayed by both sides could be felt throughout the stadium in the final minutes and each team rushed to tally again. It’s an intensity that Vancouver coach Carl Robinson addressed post-match.
“Real Salt Lake might be a new rival of ours,” Vancouver coach Carl Robinson said with a smile, tongue only partially in cheek. “With the intensity in the game, I thought it was a great point for us. A thoroughly hard-working performance.”