Real Salt Lake dealt hammer blow to playoff chances with loss at Vancouver

Real Salt Lake's Joao Plata, left, collides with Vancouver Whitecaps' Tim Parker, center, and Jordan Harvey during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

Vancouver, B.C. • Everyone gets a helpful bounce once in a while. For Real Salt Lake, the vital helpful bounce went against it.

A 3-2 loss the Whitecaps on Saturday night is a massive blow to Real Salt Lake’s playoff prospects. RSL (10-14-5, 35 points) remains two points behind FC Dallas for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but FC Dallas has three more games remaining this season than RSL.

Vancouver won the way it sets out every game: Capitalizing on set pieces and taking advantage of an opponent’s mistakes to hit on the counter. But knowing the game plan and defending it are two different things.

“If it was that easy that you prepare for a team precisely in knowing what they’re going to do, if it was that easy just to accomplish that, it would be the most boring sport in the world,” RSL coach Mike Petke said “It would be 0-0 every game because everybody would get it right.”

The key play was in the 52nd minute. On a Whitecaps free kick, Vancouver center back Tim Parker’s header was palmed away on a diving save from RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, but the ball hit the post and ricocheted back to Vancouver captain Kendall Watson, who buried it in the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.

Twenty-two minutes later, the Whitecaps’ Yordy Reyna made it 3-1 by sweeping home a cross from Bernie Ibini-Isei. The Whitecaps would end up needing that goal, as Tony Beltran’s first career MLS goal in the 83rd minute drew RSL within 3-2.

“It’s tough to take away the result, honestly,” Beltran said. “That’s what I’m focused on. I guess I’m happy to contribute on that side of the ball. Should have come sooner, and I wish it was in better circumstances. But great ball by [Jefferson] Savarino on that play.”

Real Salt Lake trailed less than 30 minutes into the match, as Ibini-Isei found Jacob Nerwinski up the right side to start the attack. Nerwinski’s cross set Christian Techera up for the finish.

RSL tied the game in the 37th minute. Chris Wingert cut to his right to get around a defender and sent a ball into the box. RSL striker Yura Movsisian missed the header, and a diving David Ousted got a hand on the shot, knocking it away. But the ball hit the ground with backspin, and it bounced behind Ousted into the net.

“I was just trying to whip it in across,” Wingert said. “I saw Yura run in between the center backs and I was just trying to find his head. And actually originally when it just went barely over his head I was disappointed. I was hoping he would deflect it in. It was just lucky.”