No Salt, Please: Vancouver Whitecaps complete double over Real Salt Lake thanks to late Lucas Cavallini winner

The Vancouver Whitecaps snapped a 4 game losing streak on Saturday, as they beat Real Salt Lake 2-1 at Providence Park, all thanks to a Lucas Cavallini winner. Here is our report from that one, as the ‘Caps crawled back up into the playoff race with a big victory. 

Usually, salt is quite useful for melting snow. 

In this case, however, the salt hasn’t been able to melt the snow that of the ‘Whitecaps’, as the Vancouver Whitecaps completed the double over Real Salt Lake in 2020 with a 2-1 victory on Saturday. 

Similarly to when these teams last met, the ‘Caps grabbed all 3 points thanks to a Lucas Cavallini winner, helping them bust a 4-game losing streak. 

It wasn’t the prettiest result, but it was an extremely clinical one, as the ‘Caps rode some solid defensive play and effective finishing to overturn an early 1-0 deficit brought upon by a tough individual mistake. 

Heading into a big clash with LAFC on Wednesday, a team that stamped them last time out, they’ll look to build off of this result, allowing them to get revenge on a team that got them good a few weeks back. 

To start the match, the Whitecaps made 3 changes to the lineup that lost 3-0 to San Jose on Wednesday, as the suspended Lucas Cavallini and Janio Bikel slotted back in with Ranko Veselinovic in the 11, filling in for Tosaint Ricketts, Michael Baldisimo and the suspended Andy Rose. Despite the changes in personnel, they kept the same formation, however, sticking with a 4-4-2. 

On the other side, RSL made 6 changes to their side that lost 2-1 to Seattle in midweek, as Marcelo Silva, Danny Toia, Damir Kreilach, Justin Meram, Maikel Chang and Douglas Martinez came in for Tate Schmitt, Nick Besler, Erik Holt, Kyle Beckerman, Sam Johnson and Corey Baird. As suggested by the wholesale changes, they also changed their formation, returning to a more conventional 4-2-3-1 after testing out a 5-3-2 against Seattle. 

The game started out really slowly, as both teams seemed hesitant to try and take over the game, making for a quiet first 30 minutes. 

Ali Adnan had the best chance in the 10th minute, as he stepped up to take a 19-yard free-kick after Lucas Cavallini was fouled, but he sent his shot right into the wall, giving RSL a break. 

Cristian Dajome nearly broke open the game in the 29th minute, as he found some space at the near post off of a Fredy Montero cross from a set-piece, but the Colombian connection wouldn’t result in a goal, with Dajome’s header sailing just wide. 

But not long after, RSL started to wake up offensively, as they found their first good chance of the game in the 30th minute. Justin Meram found some space at the back post, and he sent a low ball to Damir Kreilach in the box, with the midfielder just slicing his shot wide past Bush in the ‘Caps goal. 

The ‘Caps probably should’ve taken notes of that particular combination, because it would come to haunt them 8 minutes later, when RSL opened the scoring in the 38th minute. In a similar play, Pablo Ruiz found Meram at the back post, and Meram sent a low ball right into the 6-yard-box, where Kreliach managed to beat all ‘Caps defenders and poke home an easy goal for the 1-0 lead. 

And that was how the game would reach half time, as neither team was either to produce much else in terms of chances, at least aside from an RSL scramble in the box that was poked into the back of the net in the 45th minute, one that would be eventually called off for offside by VAR. 

For the ‘Caps, it was a frustrating half, as they’d looked really good in possession, holding more of the ball throughout most of the 45 minutes, but they’d struggled to break down RSL defensively, rendering the possession useless. 

At the other end, they switched off at a key moment defensively, and it hurt them, leaving them to rue missed chances once again. For the third game in a row, they’d started strong only to concede first after failing to score, as their inability to take over the decisive moments continued to haunt them. 

Luckily for them, they still had 45 minutes to go in this one, leaving them with the hope of a victory, but after seeing them concede first in the 5th game in a row, it wasn’t looking positive heading into the second stanza. 

But despite the negative mood heading into half time, the ‘Caps would find some belief, and a bit of magic, starting in the 71st minute. 

Second-half substitute Michael Baldisimo would step up to a long free-kick, and he sent in a juicy ball, one that RSL’s Douglas Martinez would meet first with his head. Unfortunately for RSL, he would head it the wrong way, sending it straight into his own goal for the equalizer.

Spurred on by their opener, the ‘Caps would find a shocking second goal soon after, as they continued to press. Ali Adnan found some space down the left flank after a great ball from Michael Baldisimo, and whipped a low ball in, one that found Cristian Dajome in the box. 

Dajome would be unable to take it down, however, but the ball would fall right to Fredy Montero, as he sent a strong strike, one that Andrew Putna just kept out with his fingertips. Luckily for Vancouver, however, the ball would bounce right to Lucas Cavallini, who sent the ball into the low corner with his right foot, giving the ‘Caps a 2nd goal. 

Annoyed by their defensive lapses, RSL would start to push the ‘Caps, finding a few late chances of their own. Maikel Chang sent a harmless low shot towards Bush in the 80th minute, before Corey Baird sent a hard left-footed strike just past the post in the 84th minute, narrowly keeping the ‘Caps lead alive. 

But aside from a dangerous Baird header in the 85th minute that forced a decent save from Bush, RSL’s late push would prove to be fruitless, giving the ‘Caps all 3 points in a big victory for them. 

In what felt like a must-win game for them, they came up big when they needed it most, allowing them to snatch a surprising victory. It wasn’t the prettiest of results, but they kept RSL at bay for most of the game, and found a way to finish their chances in that 5-minute second-half spell, giving them all 3 points. 

It might not be the most sustainable path towards victory, but if they can build off of some of what they did defensively, and find a way to make more happen in the final third, they can be a better team than what the recent results have suggested. 

Man of the Match: Michael Baldisimo

Baldisimo strikes a ball against Toronto FC in September (Keveren Guillou)

It’s rare to see someone who came into the game as a substitution win this award, but Michael Baldisimo was that good in this one, as he really changed the game for Vancouver. 

He was very much involved in both goals, made some big plays at both ends, and was just overall a force for the ‘Caps as soon as he came in. 

Without a doubt, the team seems to be better in midfield when he’s on his game, so they definitely have to find a way for him to be more involved in games going forward. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Lucas Cavallini

Cavallini chases a loose ball against TFC back in September (Keveren Guillou)

We picked Cavallini as our player to watch before the game, and he delivered on our optimism, bagging his second game-winner of the season, both coming against RSL, giving the ‘Caps 3 huge points. 

As far as the game went, he was a bit all over the place, showing some good moments here and there, but he came up big in a crucial moment, showing what he can do when the situation presents itself. 

Confidence has been an issue for him this season, so hopefully this can be the start of a good streak for him, allowing him to bag a few more goals as the campaign winds down. 

Heatmap of the game:

Much as has been the case these past few games, it wasn’t a Mona Lisa of a heatmap again for Vancouver, at least not offensively, but there was some good progress on the defensive end to at least keep RSL as far away from their goal as they did. 

If they can keep teams away from their box as they did, but also find a way to get the ball deeper into the opponent’s half, they can pick up points on a more consistent basis. 

Looking Forward:

So now, another tough game awaits the ‘Caps, as they take on LAFC at ‘home’ on Wednesday. 

For those keeping track at home, the last time that the ‘Caps won, coincidentally against RSL on a Saturday, they took on LAFC the next Wednesday, losing 6-0 in a heavy loss. 

While the circumstances are different this time around, as the ‘Caps will avoid travelling into the lion’s den that is Banc of California Stadium, they’ll have to sharp to avoid a heavy result against an LA team that isn’t scared of running up the score. 

Boosted by a big result, they’ll look to build off of this and try and crawl their way back into the playoff race, especially considering how tight the Western Conference playoff picture continues to be. 

It won’t be easy, but they’ll have the belief that they can do it, which as we’ve seen in the past, is always something good to use as a starting block. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LAFC, Wednesday, October 14th, 2020, 19:00 PST (Providence Park, Portland)

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