Whitecaps settle for tie in scuffle in Salt Lake

July 21, 2014 at 10:03 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2014 | Leave a comment

I have always admired Real Salt Lake. For many seasons they have put out an attractive, attacking brand of football that succeeded. They have a loyal following that pack their beautiful Rio Tinto Stadium, which has a lush grass pitch. In many ways I have felt that RSL is the organization the Whitecaps should emulate in order to find success.

I have always liked RSL players, too. I especially admired Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman. I admired the skill of Javier Morales. Now I can hardly wait to boo them in September when they show up at BC Place.

Thought the Whitecaps played a defensive match and barely exceeded one-third of the possession in the match, they very nearly came a way with a win on RSL’s home pitch.

Carl Robinson demonstrated his bench strength, resting Morales, Hurtado and Laba for most of the match. I thought this would be a disaster, but Mehdi Ballouchy, Omar Salgado and Nico Mezquida did a fine job, thanks very much. Robinson seems to have coached his squad in such a manner that everyone knows how to play the Whitecaps game. Salgado in particular showed some terrific play down the left side, getting some dangerous balls into the box. Though Morales, Hurtado and Laba did their bit later on in the match, they brought nothing really new to the Whitecaps game.

Darren Mattocks played one of his best games ever in a Whitecaps jersey. As the sole striker he played his roll perfectly, using his speed to get open, and holding up the ball so his teammates could catch up to him.

Mattocks drew a penalty mid-way throughout the second half from a hillbilly called Nat Borchers, whose wild beard probably made his tackle look worse than it was. Borchers actually got to the ball before he clattered Mattocks, but his reckless lunge in the box was always going to be a risky play. From one angle it looked like a clear penalty and from behind the goal it looked like a perfect tackle. RSL went ape when the referee called it, but Borchers only had himself to blame for diving in where he didn’t have to.

Mattocks claimed the ball and dispatched the penalty with a kind of supreme confidence. Mattocks richly deserved a goal; he did all the club could ever ask of him in this match.

After the goal and before the restart there was a scuffle, which is no surprise given the physical nature of the match which saw Beckerman and Morales committing dirty fouls and generally trying to intimidate the smaller Whitecaps. To their credit, the Whitecaps held their ground like a bunch of little terriers. Hopefully this incident will become a bonding moment for the Whitecaps as a team.

RSL finally found a bit of the play we have come to expect from them when some very neat passing eventually had Beckerman slotting the ball perfectly to little Plata whose speed caught an out of position Beitashour by surprise to David Ousted’s right. Plata blasted the ball past a collapsing Ousted into the net. It was 1-1 with ten minutes of regular time left.

Plata ran back to the centre line and it looked like RSL were going to throw everything at the Whitecaps to win the match. It never happened however, as the Whitecaps withstood the late pressure to escape Rio Tinto with a draw. Gershon Koffie in particular fought like a lion, and I think that many of the boys the Whitecaps have acquired over the years are turning into men.

The tie gave the Whitecaps a road point, which is always a good result in the MLS, in which road teams rarely get anything out of a game. It also meant, however, that the Whitecaps have won only one of their last seven games.

The match left the Whitecaps out of the playoff spots on goal difference behind fifth place Colorado. The next match is against Dallas FC at BC Place. Dallas sit in second in the Western Conference but only two points ahead of the Whitecaps. Game on!

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