RSL head coach Jason Kreis made 10 changes to his lineup from the team’s outing last weekend with an eye on Tuesday’s US Open Cup final, but an early goal from Devon Sandoval and enough defense to hold the ‘Caps off sprung RSL (15-10-6) back into first place in the Western Conference.
“The soccer doesn’t change that drastically, the level of play that we have doesn’t change that drastically, so if we can make up the differences with our effort then often times we get results, and Devon is an essential guy for that," said head coach Jason Kreis. "He’ll give you everything he has and that helps you win games.”
Vancouver (11-11-8) missed a chance at three huge points and remain four points back of the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Sandoval headed home a Lovel Palmer cross from the right side just nine minutes into the game for the only goal of the night. Sandoval accelerated past Vancouver defender Jay DeMerit and headed low past goalkeeper David Ousted for his third goal of the season.
“This result was huge for us," said Sandoval. "Yes, this was our “second team” if you want to call it that, but we’re dangerous still. We were confident going in the game that we could get three points. We were coming off two straight losses and finally got a win. I think we’re back on the right foot and we’re ready for Tuesday.”
Vancouver’s Nigel Reo-Coker had an excellent opportunity to equalize in the 14th minute, as Camilo burst forward from his own half and beat two RSL defenders before sending the Englishman through one-on-one with RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. The midfielder took a heavy touch, however, allowing Attinella to intervene.
Russell Teibert forced Attinella to push the ball onto the crossbar in the 36th minute in one of Vancouver's better first-half efforts. Teibert hammered a deflected Tommy Heinemann pass from the left on the half volley with his favored left foot, but Attinella – playing in place of starter Nick Rimando – was up to the task.
“It was fun," said Attinella, who recoreded his first MLS win. "It’s a group that doesn’t normally get to play a lot, but we have a lot of talented players. It’s a great result, to come out here and get a result and kind of right the ship. Hopefully the momentum carries into Tuesday.”
A mad scramble in the RSL box in the 55th minute couldn't bring a goal about for the home side either, as Jordan Harvey, Kekuta Manneh and Darren Mattocks all had shot attempts blocked by defenders within seconds. Abdoulie Mansally got the final, decisive block on a shot from Mattocks to help preserve the shutout.
Yordany Alvarez forced Ousted into a fine diving save in the 61st minute with a half volley from outside the area. The ball looked destined for the bottom left corner of goal before Ousted stretched out his arm to push the ball to the right of his goal.
The Whitecaps screamed for a possible dismissal in the 69th minute, as Teibert broke free only to get clattered by defender Chris Schuler, the last man back for RSL. Referee Baldomero Toledo ran toward Teibert, but only waved him to get back on his feet.
Ousted once again stood tall in the 73rd minute, stopping Olmes Garcia from close range, who found himself free on the right side of the box.
Kekuta Manneh blasted a shot just wide of the top left corner in the 87th minute, taking a layoff from Camilo, but his effort couldn't sneak into the upper 90.
Jaoao Plata nearly added to Vancouver's misery in the second minute of stoppage time, unleashing a shot against the left post.
Now RSL is squarely focused on Tuesday night's U.S. Open Cup Final against D.C. United at Rio Tinto Stadium. Head coach Jason Kreis hopes the momentum gained from Saturday's victory carries over to Tuesday.
“I hope so," Kreis said. "You know we said for the next six weeks that the most important match for us is the Open Cup final, and yes we want to compete for the Supporter’s Shield, but for me the chance to win something in a one off game has to take precedence. We are also very excited for the opportunity that we have, and really excited to play that matchup in front of our fans.”