VANCOUVER, B.C. - Vancouver Whitecaps seized the initiative back from the Portland Timbers in the battle for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference on Saturday, coming from behind to beat Real Salt Lake 2-1 at BC Place.
Pedro Morales missed what looked like a costly penalty in the dying moments of the first half and RSL took advantage, going ahead in the 57th minute when Nat Borchers headed home a corner kick. But the Whitecaps and their Chilean captain bounced back with some style, with Morales scoring a second spot-kick just past the hour mark before turning the eventual winner in from close range with 12 minutes remaining.
The victory moves Vancouver (9-8-13; 40 points) back into fifth place in the West, giving them a one point advantage over Portland with four games remaining. Real Salt Lake (13-7-10; 49 points) stay third with a one point lead of their own over FC Dallas.
Morales had a great chance to give Vancouver the lead in the fourth minute. Sebastian Fernandez showed some lovely footwork out left, skipping inside past Kyle Beckerman and playing the ball to the Whitecaps captain who blasted over from six yards out.
It took until first half stoppage time for the next real action, when referee Allen Chapman pointed to the spot after judging RSL’s Alvaro Saborio to have fouled Vancouver’s Kendall Waston on a corner. The usually reliable Morales stepped up but was stoned by normal RSL backup Jeff Attinella, who dove to his right to keep the effort out and send the sides into the half scoreless.
The visitors looked livelier after the break and David Ousted was forced to make an acrobatic save to keep out a Javier Morales volley in the 57th minute. The save was just a brief respite for Vancouver, with Borchers heading home the resultant corner to give Real Salt Lake the lead.
The goal finally brought the Whitecaps to life and they were back on level terms within five minutes.
A wild, high tackle by Carlos Salcedo on Erik Hurtado in the box brought Vancouver their second penalty of the afternoon and this time Morales made no mistake, drilling the ball low into the bottom left corner.
The Whitecaps pushed for the go-ahead goal but were nearly caught cold in the 76th, when Sebastian Jaime bore down on goal only for Ousted to race outside the area to deny the 1-v-1 opportunity.
Vancouver's pressure paid off moments later, with Morales grabbing his second of the game in the 78th minute when he turned in a Steven Beitashour strike from close range for the winner.
Vancouver will look to build on their win and solidify their playoff place when they host FC Dallas at BC Place next Saturday. Real Salt Lake stay on the road and will try and lockdown their seventh-straight postseason berth when they travel to face Chivas USA on Sunday.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Pedro Morales||Missed his first PK attempt, but more than made up for it in the second half, creating numerous chances, converting a second PK try and scoring Vancouver’s late winner.|
|2||Jeff Attinella||The usual backup was very strong filling in for Nick Rimando, denying Morales on his first PK attempt and making seven saves to keep RSL in it.|
|3||Kekuta Manneh||He only played 13 minutes, but Manneh was instrumental in Vancouver’s win, setting up Morales’ late winner and nearly creating a marvelous goal of his own.|