VANCOUVER, B.C - The Whitecaps travelled to snowy Sandy, Utah to take on Real Salt Lake under their new coach Mike Petke. Vancouver faced their third match in eight days, and simply could not keep up with a rejuvenated Real Salt Lake side. Albert Rusnak contributed a goal and two assists in the second half to help Mike Petke earn a 3-0 win with Real Salt Lake. 17,069 snow-covered spectators went home happy.
Vancouver falls to 1-3-1 on the season, and Real Salt Lake pick up their first win of the season whilst improving to 1-2-3 on the campaign.
"I think they adapted to the conditions better," said Carl Robinson. "I don’t think the football was an ideal spectacle after that happens. All credit to them. They managed to get the first goal. I thought the first goal was always going to have an impact on the game, and obviously the second and third we were chasing the game."
Nick Rimando, and David Ousted both had three saves on the evening. The Whitecaps FC goalkeeper shared his thoughts on the winter like atmosphere during the match.
"This was not so much about soccer as handling the conditions," said Ousted. "They did that better than us today. They got their goals, got themselves ahead, and handled it well."
With the snow falling as heavily as it was during the second half, should the match have been halted? Would a postponement, or delay have been a better option?
"How can it hold up? It’s three, four, five inches of snow, and the game is still going ahead. So it’s not ideal," said Carl Robinson.
The Opening 45
For the first time in the Carl Robinson era, the Vancouver Whitecaps deployed a 3-5-2 formation with three centre-back protecting goalkeeper, David Ousted. A risky formation perhaps, but with Jordan Harvey unavailable, and Sheanon Williams on the bench, Robinson decided to experiment with a new strategy.
Whitecaps FC killer, Joao Plata had a trio of dangerous opportunities to open the scoring in the early stages, but he whiffed on his several chances. The best, coming in the 23' minute when Brooks Lennon found the Ecuadorian striker at the back post. Plata had an open tap in, and he missed the net.
As the snow began to fall with heavy succession, it was Real Salt Lake maintaining pressure on the slick surface at Rio Tinto Stadium. Vancouver was hemmed in their own half, and didn't have much going forward in terms of offensive chances.
Heading into the interval the match awaited a goal, with Real Salt Lake holding a 8-2 advantage on corners, and a large 63% - 37% possession advantage.
The Second Half
The Whitecaps showed more offensive flare at the start of the second half, but it did not result in any goals. As blizzard like conditions graced the pitch, it was Real Salt Lake that quickly adapted and not Vancouver.
Albert Rusnak scored his first career MLS goal in the 54' minute. He was played in by Plata, before splitting a pair of flat-footed Whitecaps FC defenders. The 22 year-old slotted his shot near post, behind a helpless David Ousted to put Real Salt Lake up 1-0.
The home side smelled blood and they pounced on Vancouver for another tally in the 74' minute. Rusnak played distributor as he setup Yura Movsisyan, who was able to find the inside post. The Whitecaps back-line was unable to adapt to the snow, and constant pressure from Real Salt Lake.
Real Salt Lake added another goal in the 78' minute off a corner. Rusnak sent a ball in that Ousted got a touch to, but could not punch away. The ball fell to Luke Mulholland who was able to send a volley past the Whitecaps FC shot-stopper.
The underhanded Whitecaps were never really in this match. Yes, they had fresh bodies, but they lived ever so dangerously with three defenders at the back, in the slick snowy conditions. Real Salt Lake were determined to take all three points and they looked the part from start to finish.
Man of the Match
A rebuilding Real Salt Lake side was able to get a massive contribution from Albert Rusnak. The Slovakian assassin, helped out with the game winning goal, and a pair of assists. Real Salt Lake need all the contributions they can get. New gaffer, Mike Petke will be pleased to see the youngster delivering in the clutch.
"The earlier you score your first goal in the new league, in a new team, the pressure just drops a little bit off you," said Rusnak. "I'm an attacking player so my job is to score goals and to also make assists. I'm very glad I scored a goal today, my first goal and that I helped my team to win."
Vancouver Whitecaps Starting XI: David Ousted; Christian Dean, 59 (Cristian Techera), Kendall Waston(C), Tim Parker; Marcel De Jong, Russell Teibert, Matias Laba, 78 (Andrew Jacobson), Tony Tchani, 59 (Mauro Rosales), Jake Nerwinski; Nicolas Mezquida, Fredy Montero. 3-5-2.
Real Salt Lake Starting XI: Nick Rimando; Danilo Acosta, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert, Demar Phillips; Kyle Beckerman(C), 89 (Omar Holness), Luke Mulholland, Albert Rusnák; Brooks Lennon, Yura Movsisyan, 81 (Luis Silva), Joao Plata, 61 (Sebastian Saucedo) 4-3-3