SANDY, Utah (AP) — Defense proved to be a perfect solution for Real Salt Lake's problems.
There were no early goals or shaky early possessions like last week's loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Instead, Salt Lake experienced steady improvement over 90 minutes and it added up to a positive result.
Luis Gil ended a scoring drought with a header just minutes into the second half and Javier Morales also had a goal to lead Salt Lake to a 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night.
Salt Lake (4-4-2) played without its top three forwards as Alvaro Saborio, Robbie Findley and Olmes Garcia all were sidelined because of injuries. It forced head coach Jason Kreis to use his ninth different starting lineup this season.
The Whitecaps (2-4-3) extended their MLS winless streak to seven games. Vancouver has not won since a 2-1 home victory over Columbus on March 9. The Whitecaps have given up at least two goals in five of those seven contests
"You got to play through the whole game," Vancouver coach Martin Renne said. "The second half wasn't good enough."
Neither team generated much offense before halftime. Salt Lake managed just two shots on goal while Vancouver did not have a shot.
Kreis admitted his team struggled out of the gate trying to find a rhythm in their passing game. After halftime, though, he thought Salt Lake made increasingly better tactical choices.
"I felt like we got better and better and better as the game went on and I have to feel good about it," Kreis said. "That's what we want. We want a team that is capable of improving during a match and calm enough to do so."
Salt Lake got on the scoreboard on Gil's goal in the 47th minute. Nick Rimando set the scoring play in motion with a booming goal kick, and Plata corralled the deep ball on the right flank and sent a cross into Gil, who simply lunged forward and headed the ball into the net.
The Whitecaps nearly tied it in the 61st minute when Corey Hertzog challenged Rimando and flicked the ball past his feet. The ball puttered along the goal line before Nat Borchers charged after it and cleared it off the line to preserve the lead.
Morales made it 2-0 in the 71st minute as he tapped a running right footer inside the left post. Plata also set up this goal, sending a short cross to Morales in the center of the box after Sebastian Velasquez fed the ball ahead to him.
The Whitecaps really never threatened to cut into the lead because Rimando rarely faced any dangerous attack situations. Salt Lake controlled possession and made his 102nd MLS career shutout one of the easiest he has had so far.
"When I don't have to make a lot of saves, it's my best game," Rimando said. "That means we're organized. That means the defense is intact and the whole team is playing defense."
Rennie said his team needs to do a little soul searching after yet another road loss. He feels like Vancouver needs to make the loss a turning point and go in a positive direction.
"Players who do very well at home are letting us down away from home," Rennie said. "I can't put my finger on why, but they really need to look at themselves and ask if they are giving enough to the club. The club does everything for them."