They flirted with disaster, but the Vancouver Whitecaps still managed to end a three-game losing streak Friday night.
Cristian Techera connected on a penalty kick and Anthony Blondell scored his first Major League Soccer goal as the Whitecaps defeated Real Salt Lake 2-0 before a crowd of 19,283 at BC Place Stadium.
After playing poorly in back-to-back losses, the Whitecaps badly needed the victory for their own self-esteem and to win back some wavering fan support.
“I have trust in my players,” said coach Carl Robinson. “You don’t become a good team overnight and you don’t become a bad team overnight.
“We have been wounded a little bit in the last two weeks because of our performances. We’ve been a little bit undisciplined because we have not kept 11 men in the field. We can’t do that.”
After being a hero with his goal in the 76th minute, Techera easily could have been the goat.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) April 28, 2018
The Whitecaps were awarded the penalty kick after midfielder Nick Besler pulled down Vancouver’s Nicolas Mezquida in the penalty box.
Techera made no mistake on the penalty kick but his moment of excitement almost turned into disaster when he celebrated by pulling off his jersey. That resulted in Techera receiving his second yellow card of the night and being thrown out of the game, forcing Vancouver to play with 10 players
“I was disappointed he got sent off,” said Robinson. “Sometimes emotions get the better of it.
“He’s got to keep his shirt on. He knows that.”
Blondell capped off a strong game with his first goal as a Whitecap just three minutes later.
Alphonso Davies, who had subbed into the match in the 61st minute, made a nice run down the side of the field, then passed to an open Blondell, who tipped the ball into the net.
Blondell had a great scoring opportunity in the first half. He also set up Techera and Brek Shea with good chances.
The Whitecaps have been excited about Blondell’s potential since signing the 23-year-old Venezuelan last November. Blondell led the Venezuelan Primera Division with 24 goals, including eight game-winners, in 39 appearances last season.
“I thought he was excellent,” said Robinson. “I think you will see a very confident young player.
“He will be judged on his goals. Most people who have ideas about football understand it’s just not about goal scoring, it’s about work rates as well.”
The Whitecaps (4-4-1) were looking to rebound after being humiliated 6-0 on the road last weekend by Sporting Kansas City in the worst defeat in the team’s MLS history. Vancouver had been outscored 10-1 in their previous three losses and haven’t scored a goal at BC Place Stadium in their two previous games.
“We needed three points how ever it took,” said captain Kendall Waston. “It didn’t matter if we played pretty or ugly. Just three points is what counts here.”
BC Place hasn’t been kind to Real Salt Lake (3-4-1) who is 1-8-1 in its past 10 games in Vancouver and have been outscored 21-7.
Besler said Salt Lake played well for most of the match.
“I thought the first 45 minutes we were really good, definitely our best 45 minutes we’ve put together all year,” he said. “We were probably a little unfortunate not to get a goal.
“The last 15 minutes we made a couple of mistakes and they capitalized on them.”
Blondell had the crowd on its feet in the 18th minute. He got behind the Salt Lake defence then deked goalkeeper Nick Rimando to the ground. Before Blondell could get off a shot, defender Justen Glad got a foot on the ball and knock it out of bounds.
Later in the half, Blondell stole the ball off a Salt Lake defender then passed to Techera in front of the net. Techera’s high shot sailed over the net like a field goal attempt.
“Anthony is a strong guy that can hold the ball pretty well,” said Waston. “He has a great strike.
“When he has more games, he is going to feel more comfortable.”
Jim Morris, The Canadian Press