July 20,2014(ISN) – SANDY, UTAH – A Vancouver Whitecaps FC (6W-4L-9D) side mixing in a group of fresh faces after playing their second match in four days held Real Salt Lake (7W-4L-8D) to a 1-1 draw Saturday on a hot and humid evening at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Jamaican striker Darren Mattocks scored in his second straight match to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead in the 73rd minute, but Joao Plata equalized late to secure the draw in a heated Western Conference encounter that saw seven players booked.
It was an impressive road performance from the Blue and White, who had a total of six new faces in their starting lineup after a midweek draw with Toronto FC.
The ‘Caps, who also earned a road draw at Real Salt Lake back in April, have now recorded back-to-back draws away from home to maintain their .500 road record (2W-2L-6D).
Saturday’s match capped off a busy week for Whitecaps FC, in which they played three matches in three different time zones. It’s no surprise, therefore, that head coach Carl Robinson made several changes to his starting lineup.
The most notable of them saw Mehdi Ballouchy and Omar Salgado come in to make their first MLS starts of the season. Uruguayans Nicolas Mezquida and Sebastian Fernandez, who scored late goals in Vancouver’s last meeting against Real Salt Lake, also drew back into the starting lineup – as did Gershon Koffie and Jordan Harvey, who returned after serving an automatic one-match suspension.
Just as they did in the previous meeting between these two teams, Real Salt Lake got off to an inspired start in front of their home crowd Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. They came close in the third minute, when Javier Morales lined up for a free kick from just outside the area.
But Whitecaps FC goalkeeper David Ousted, who wore the captain’s armband in the absence of both Pedro Morales and Jay DeMerit, made a fantastic diving save to keep the game level.
Real Salt Lake continued to control possession in the first half and had a few more half-chances off set pieces, but the ‘Caps looked quite comfortable after weathering the early storm. And slowly but surely, their transition game started to take over.
In the 38th minute, Vancouver had two glorious opportunities to open the scoring.
First, Ballouchy chipped a ball over the top to Mattocks, who beat his mark and broke into the box before sending a right-footed effort just wide. Moments later, Salgado curled a low cross to Fernandez at the back post but the Uruguayan couldn’t find the back of the net.
The ‘Caps had one more chance in the 41st minute, when Koffie let loose a heavy low strike from distance that was deflected inches wide.
Although they weren’t able to take a lead, it was a positive end to the first half for the Blue and White, who looked both organized defensively and lively in the attacking third.
Real Salt Lake gave Whitecaps FC a scare early in the second half, when Plata found Kyle Beckerman at the back post. Fortunately for Vancouver, the U.S. national team midfielder directed his header wide of the target.
There was little between the Western Conference rivals from that point forward – until the 73rd minute, when Mattocks used his speed on the counter to break into the box and earn a penalty, which he coolly finished to give Whitecaps FC the lead.
Plata responded for Real Salt Lake in the 81st minute with a perfect left-footed finish form the left side of the box, setting up an exciting conclusion to the match.
Real Salt Lake had the best chance to win the game in stoppage time, but Ousted bravely left his line and came up with a massive save on substitute Robbie Findley as the two players collided.
With another valuable road point in their back pocket, the ‘Caps return to BC Place next Sunday for an afternoon affair against Western Conference rival FC Dallas. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. PT