By TYLER GRAY
SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake’s goalkeeper, Nick Rimando, was only one shutout away from tying the MLS record heading into tonight’s match and he looked like he was going to get it for about 85 minutes of the match. The Vancouver Whitecaps had other plans.
RSL started the game fast and looked like they were going to take the match over. The home side notched two goals in the first 10 minutes courtesy of strikers Joao Plata and Alvaro Saborio. Vancouver pulled one back in the 86th minute, however, through substitute Nicolas Mezquida, who pounced on a spilled save from Rimando and spoiled the goalkeeper’s night.
The second goal came in the last minute of the match when Sebastian Fernandez released a screamer from distance that beat Rimando and stole two points away from a largely dominant RSL side. The match ended 2-2, squashing any hopes of a shutout record or three points for the home side.
Rimando will likely try to forget his 86th minute blunder that ruined his chance of earning the record. He couldn’t keep a handle on the ball and Mezquida was at the right place at the right time to send the ball into the net.
Vancouver’s second and final goal was a thing of beauty. Fernandez was on the ball, got his head up, and blasted a long range shot in the final minute of stoppage time that beat Rimando for a second time and earned his team a point on the road.
It was the third time this year that Real Salt Lake let a lead slip away from them. When asked about the trend, head coach Jeff Cassar noted that a lot of it stemmed from self-inflicted wounds.
“It’s something that we’re gonna have to look at and just be more cognizant of recognizing danger,” Cassar said. “I think we could’ve closed this game out relatively easy but we made it hard on ourselves by giving the ball away.”
RSL defender Chris Wingert gave credit to Vancouver’s tactics, saying the Whitecaps chose to be extremely aggressive to close out the game and it paid off.
“They were just leaving three or four high, they didn’t care if we had the ball in their end. Once we got out of their pressure, we needed to do a little better job of A, keeping it and B, possibly scoring a third goal. We gave up two goals that we shouldn’t.”
It was a disappointing result for RSL, which started the match extremely well.
In just the second minute of play, RSL defender Chris Wingert passed the ball to midfielder Luke Mulholland, who helped the ball onto Plata. The Ecuadorian took a touch and then sent a low shot that beat Whitecaps ‘keeper David Ousted, putting RSL in the lead.
Just eight minutes later, Saborio would double the lead.
RSL defender Tony Beltran received the ball on the wing and played it to Grabavoy at the top of the box. Last week’s goalscorer dribbled through three Vancouver defenders and somehow managed to slip a pass through to a waiting Saborio. The Costa Rican one-timed his shot with the inside of his left foot, curling it just past the outstretched arms of Ousted and into the net.
RSL stretched their unbeaten streak to eight games, boasting a 3-0-5 record with the tie. Head coach Jeff Cassar has now tied the longest unbeaten stretch in MLS history for a new head coach, but will undoubtedly have plenty to say to his team in the coming week after they let another lead slip through their fingertips.
RSL defender Nat Borchers reiterated the old adage that with soccer, not always the better team wins.
“I think, in soccer, it’s a cruel game,” Borchers said. “Obviously if we get past Beitashour’s tackle, we probably go out and score a goal and it’s 3-1 and we go home a little happier. But it’s just the cruel bounces of the game sometimes and I give a lot of credit to Vancouver.”
Borchers expressed frustration at the loss but reiterated that the team can learn a lot from these types of games.
“It’s a tough lesson for us, to learn at this point in the season to be able to close a game out like that at home and be able to do better with our possession, our movement and our decisions overall. I think we’re going to learn from it.”
RSL will travel to Chicago to face the Fire next week, while Vancouver will host the San Jose Earthquakes at home.
Watch highlights of the match below: