VANCOUVER, BC – The last time Real Salt Lake brought an understrength team to BC Place against the Vancouver Whitecaps was in 2013, as they prepared for the US Open Cup final. Against the odds, they pulled off a surprise 1-0 victory.
Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson, then the team's assistant coach, felt the sting. "It still irks me now," Robinson said of that match. "Things like that wind me up."
So Saturday night, he used those ghosts from the past as motivation for his squad heading into a clash with a depleted RSL. Lessons learned, the Whitecaps made sure that history would not repeat itself – they comfortably routed the visitors 4-0.
Of course, then, Robinson said he felt happy with Saturday night's comfortable win that allowed the Whitecaps to retain their place at the top of the Western Conference standings, and also saw them record their ninth clean sheet of the season.
But he feels there's still work to be done to get his team playing to the levels at which he knows they are capable.
"We didn't play very well in the first half, but we got our noses in front," he said. "I said to them at halftime that they needed to tidy up a few things, and I thought in the second half we were a lot, lot better. Obviously we got two goals – disappointed maybe not to get one or two more. It was a trap game for us, but we took care of business today."
The Whitecaps now boast 10 goals scored in their last three MLS matches, and only one conceded. As such, Robinson has been delighted with how his squad have responded to the challenge of sharing the goals to take some of the pressure off striker Octavio Rivero's shoulders. He felt particularly pleased on Saturday night with how his team refused to ease up on the gas pedal.
"That's what you need," he said. "You've got have a desire to score goals, and if you do, when you get two, you want three, and when you get three, you want four. We could have got a couple more."
The crucial third goal that Robinson talked about came courtesy of winger Cristian Techera. The Uruguayan also added a second, and Vancouver's fourth for the game, soon after.
"He's a terrific young player," Robinson said of his winger. "I'd say he was the best player on the field for me today. I'm disappointed that he didn't get his hat trick, because he turned down an easy opportunity. He was outstanding today. Fantastic brain he's got."
Techera's goals took his tally for the season to four in 14 appearances, continuing his fine recent form as he really starts to find his feet in MLS.
"Very happy with the result, first and foremost," Techera said through an interpreter after the game. "Then obviously I'm happy to contribute on the goals side as well. We controlled a lot of the game, we held the ball really well and we gave up very few chances. There were just a few plays where we were just a little bit sloppy, and we came out in the second half and corrected those."
Michael McColl covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.