As the Vancouver Whitecaps took the field at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night, mother nature decided to create her own whitecaps on the canvas of the Wasatch mountains. Despite the bitter conditions of an annual spring snowstorm, Real Salt Lake was able to win their first game since August of last season with a 3-0 drubbing of Vancouver in Mike Petke’s debut as head coach of the claret and cobalt.
As heavy as the downpour was to begin the game, so too was the RSL attack on the Vancouver backline. In just the second minute of play, RSL saw its’ first decent scoring chance of the day when midfielder Albert Rusnak played a long ball to forward Brooks Lennon. The young forward evaded a tackle from Vancouver’s Christian Dean and played an accurate diagonal ball to fellow forward Joao Plata. The diminutive Plata, who was making his return to the RSL starting lineup after missing time with a groin injury, couldn’t quite shake off the rust that quickly and blasted a shot just over the crossbar.
Unfortunately for the home team, Plata’s missed shot would set an ugly trend in the first half as RSL struggled to finish good scoring opportunities. Plata himself would whiff on a few more chances in the opening half including what seemed to be a relatively easy tap-in in the 27th minute off of another brilliant feed from Lennon. Fellow forward Yura Movsisyan also missed out on some golden opportunities in the first half. The big Armenian was unable to redirect a feed from Plata on frame after getting goal-side of his defender in the 16th minute and couldn’t convert a volley off of yet another great feed from Lennon just before the halftime whistle.
Despite dominating the majority of play in the first half, RSL went into the halftime break staring down the likelihood of yet another scoreless draw.
As sleet turned to snow to open the second half, the well-known winter destination that is Salt Lake City finally saw its’ first “winter ball” MLS match as the referee’s traded out the traditional white game ball for the neon orange winter ball used in case of heavy snow accumulation.
It turns out that a change in equipment was all that RSL needed to finally break through the Vancouver defense completely. After a dismal first half in which he struggled to create opportunities of his own, it was Plata who created opportunities for others in the early going of the second half.
That was fun. pic.twitter.com/O45zZdkIjW
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) April 9, 2017
Plata noticed Slovakian international Albert Rusnak making a dangerous run in-between the two Whitecaps’ center backs and rewarded him with a skipping ball into open space at the top of the 18-yard box. Rusnak took a touch towards goal, cut the ball back and fired a shot at the near post that beat Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted in the 54th minute for his first goal in an RSL uniform.
Then, in the 74th minute, it was Rusnak creating a chance as he played a long diagonal ball over the top of the Whitecaps’ backline that found an oncoming Movsisyan inside the Vancouver penalty box. Similar to Rusnak’s earlier shot, Movsisyan took a touch toward goal, made a big cut back to his right foot, but instead fired at the far post. The curling shot was too much for Ousted to handle as his save attempt hit the far post and deflected in for RSL’s second goal of the evening.
With the game seemingly in hand heading towards the final stages of the match, midfielder Luke Mulholland ended any chance of a Vancouver comeback attempt with a goal off of a Rusnak corner kick in the 78th minute. Ousted and a myriad of Vancouver defenders were unable to get a touch on Rusnak’s service as it found the knee of Mulholland just outside the six-yard box. Russell Teibert, who was guarding the far post, was unable to get a touch on it as well as the ball found the upper netting and clinched RSL’s first victory of the 2017 season.
- Midfielder Albert Rusnak scored his first MLS and RSL goal in the 54th minute and added two assists for good measure in his best outing for his new club.
- After making a brief return in RSL’s defeat at Minnesota United last week, Joao Plata made his return to the starting lineup Saturday and tallied an assist before being subbed out in the 61st minute for Sebastian Saucedo.
- RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando recorded his second clean-sheet of the season Saturday night, bringing his league record shutout total to 131.
- In arguably RSL’s best offensive showing of the young season, the claret and cobalt out-shot Vancouver 19-14 (6-3 on goal), won the possession battle 52 percent to 48 percent, won 12 corners and completed 77 percent of their passe in the victory.
For a full list of player grades and evaluations from Saturday’s match visit: