SALT LAKE CITY — Real Salt Lake’s slide has continued, and the latest move in the wrong direction Saturday may have been the worst.
RSL led a Vancouver Whitecaps team that has lost four games in a row 1-0 with just over 20 minutes to play but conceded two goals in a span of less than five minutes and lost 2-1 in Portland (Vancouver has to play games there because of travel restrictions to Canada).
RSL has now lost three straight contests and hasn’t won in six of its last seven contests as it tries to hold on to playoff hopes with just six matches remaining in the 2020 regular season.
“It’s frustrating, but we’ve been in this situation before the last two years as well and then at the end of the day everything was good.” — RSL’s Damir Kreilach
“It’s tough,” leading scorer Damir Kreilach said. “It’s frustrating, but we’ve been in this situation before the last two years as well and then at the end of the day everything was good. The first half, we did well, exactly what we wanted...and then second half, I don’t know what happened, but we didn’t get good reaction.”
The Whitecaps’ equalizer in the 71st minute Saturday came in particularly unfortunate fashion, as on a Vancouver free kick, RSL’s Douglas Martinez rose up to knock it away, but he headed it high back toward goal and his goalkeeper Andrew Putna couldn’t keep it out.
Just minutes later, the Whitecaps had a cross in their own box that appeared should have been a routine clearance from RSL’s Marcelo Silva, but he didn’t send it away. Vancouver’s Cristian Dajome had a good chance at goal, but he passed it to Fredy Montero, who rifled a shot toward goal.
Putna saved it, but Lucas Cavallini got the rebound and it was an easy goal from there. Cavallini’s goal marked his second game-winner against RSL in three weeks, as he scored one in the 84th minute on Sept. 19 at Rio Tinto Stadium to give the Whitecaps the 2-1 win, the last victory they had before Saturday (they had been outscored 13-1 since then entering Saturday).
Saturday’s game marked the first time all season that Vancouver has won a game when it conceded a goal first.
Perhaps making Saturday’s game sting more was the fact that an RSL team that has struggled to score as of late got on the board first. After a quiet first 30 minutes from both teams, RSL started getting going and in the 37th minute, ended up in the attacking third.
It didn’t appear as though the possession was going to yield much, but Mikael Chang got the ball just a few yards outside the 18-yard box. In the box on the opposite side, Justin Meram made a run toward goal, and Chang delivered a cross his way.
Meram could have tried a shot, but Kreilach was unmarked right in front of goal, and Meram sent a soft header his way. Vancouver goalkeeper Evan Bush had dived in anticipation of a Meram shot, and it was an easy tap in to goal for Kreilach.
“Me and Mikael have a great connection,” Meram said during a halftime interview on the TV broadcast. “I know when he gets it on a half turn, he puts in a great cross with his left foot. I wanted to go for goal, but I saw Dami there and I made the right play.”
Now in a tie for 10th among 12 Western Conference Major League Soccer teams, RSL will next face the second-place Portland Timbers on Wednesday at home.
“We have to keep heads up,” Kreilach said. “We have to be positive and to give everything to win the game against Portland.”