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Another red card, another home loss for Real Salt Lake, which falters at Rio Tinto Stadium for second straight game

SHARE Another red card, another home loss for Real Salt Lake, which falters at Rio Tinto Stadium for second straight game
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Vancouver Whitecaps defender Ali Adnan (53) attempts a shot against the Real Salt Lake defense during an MLS soccer game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020.

Yukai Peng, Deseret News

SANDY — Real Salt Lake’s blowout loss to Colorado last week wasn’t pleasant for those involved, but it was easy to put a finger on — RSL was simply outclassed on the night.

Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to Vancouver isn’t that cut and dry.

RSL statistically dominated the match as everyone expected with Vancouver coming in on just two days rest, but a couple critical mistakes were simply too much to overcome as it fell at home for the second straight time, dropping to 1-2-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium this season.

“We’re not a team that’s going to put our head down. OK, we’re disappointed, we can be upset, the game didn’t go our way. We can’t dwell on that. Now we have Galaxy on Wednesday to get three points and get ourselves into the winning column. That’s all we can do.” — RSL coach Freddy Juarez

Justin Meram, who scored RSL’s lone goal, said the mood in the locker after the game was “not great.”

“But the beauty of this game, the beauty of MLS and the beauty of the condensed schedule is we’ve got another game in 3-4 days, and that’s the focus. What are you going to do, you can’t change the results now, you can’t change what happened against Colorado. We came out and I thought in the first half we created some good chances, and unfortunately tonight we fell short,” said Meram.

Real Salt Lake enjoyed a 63-37 percent edge in possession and outshot Vancouver 25-8, but only four of those shots were on target.

RSL played the final 27 minutes and nine minutes of stoppage time down a man after Kyle Beckerman’s second yellow card in the 63rd minute reduced RSL to 10 men.

Despite the disadvantage RSL still managed to fight back and secure the equalizer in the 81st minute, but Vancouver grabbed the lead again just three minutes later and held off a furious push by RSL to grab all three points.

Despite the loss, RSL coach Freddy Juarez was much more pleased with the fight and greater effort his team showed compared to last week’s loss to Colorado. He remains encouraged going forward despite his team falling into 11th place in the Western Conference standings with Saturday’s loss.

“We’re not a team that’s going to put our head down. OK, we’re disappointed, we can be upset, the game didn’t go our way. We can’t dwell on that. Now we have Galaxy on Wednesday to get three points and get ourselves into the winning column. That’s all we can do,” said Juarez.

Vancouver went ahead in the 53rd minute capitalizing on a sequence in which Nedum Onuoha was caught out of position. The center back made a run into space in the midfield, but when Vancouver won the ball from him, suddenly RSL was a bit disjoined at the back.

Fredy Montero exposed that space chipping a ball in behind RSL’s backline to the speedy Cristian Dajome. The Colombian took a couple touches to the end line and then cut it back to David Milinkovic who slipped it easily past keeper Andrew Putna with Marcelo Silva trailing him.

Had Onuoha been in his customary position, it likely would’ve been an easy cleanup for the defense.

Instead, Real Salt Lake suddenly found itself down a goal to a team the oddsmakers gave little chance of winning.

“What I’m a little disappointed in, yeah maybe he can just clear it, but the transition moment. Now it’s lost, our reaction is just a little too slow, it’s a little too slow and easy for them to just get in behind us right away,” said Juarez. “It’s not just always one play … but you have to be pessimistic in moments. Transition now in soccer, both from offense to defense and defense to offense are critical, and the teams that can read and anticipate and react quicker are better.”

Things quickly went from bad to worse for the home side in the 63rd minute when Beckerman was shown his second yellow after video assistant referees confirmed a dangerous play on the keeper, reducing RSL to 10 men.

It was the second straight game Real Salt Lake finished with 10 men after Douglas Martinez was red carded last week in a 5-0 loss to Colorado. That red was realistically insignificant as RSL was already well behind, but Beckerman’s ejection severely crippled his teams hopes for a comeback.

“Two red cards in the last two games, we’re better than that, we’re more mature than that. We’ll get after it,” said Juarez.

To get more attacking punch on the field down a goal and down a man, Juarez sacrificed defender Donny Toia for Corey Baird in the 71st minute.

The switch helped Real Salt Lake control tempo despite the disadvantage, and the possession and patience eventually led to an equalizer in the 81st minute as Meram headed a brilliant curling cross from Maikel Chang leveling the score at 1-1.

Any hope RSL had of building on the momentum was erased pretty quickly by the Whitecaps, who pulled back in front 2-1 as Lucas Cavallini redirected a cross from Montero past Putna.