RSL hopes to find offense vs. Whitecaps

Generating offense is becoming a growing concern for Real Salt Lake.

RSL (1-2-1) comes into Saturday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in Sandy, Utah, with a minus-5 goal differential. Salt Lake has scored exactly one goal in each of its first four matches. The team closed out March with its second lopsided loss in four games, falling 3-1 to Toronto FC.

The defending MLS Cup champions imposed their will on RSL on both ends of the pitch. Toronto FC outshot Salt Lake 19-8 and had an 8-4 advantage in shots on goal. An inability to create or finish shots left RSL coach Mike Petke seething.

“I know what the problem is, that’s all you’re going to get,” Petke told reporters after the game. “I know what the problem is and it’s going to be fixed one way or another.”

Vancouver won’t make it any easier to find solutions. The Whitecaps (3-1-1) remain neck-and-neck with Sporting Kansas City atop the Western Conference after notching a 2-1 comeback win over Columbus last weekend.

Brek Shea leveled the match for Vancouver in the 51st minute, sending home a cross that deflected off his foot. Kei Kamara headed in the game-winner in the 78th minute to send the Crew to their first loss of the season.

Vancouver coach Carl Robinson liked the second-half fight he saw from his team.

“We knew we had to be tactically switched on, mentally switched on and physically switched on and we were,” Robinson told WhitecapsFC.com. “In the second half, we were by far the better team.”

Unlike Salt Lake, the Whitecaps have not had trouble getting on the scoreboard consistently. Vancouver has seven goals on the season. Kamara has been a major spark, providing three goals and one assist.

“The mentality of the group … is still continuing to build, but they’re a terrific group to work with,” Robinson said.

RSL and Vancouver split the season series a year ago, with each side winning at home. Real Salt Lake’s victory over the Whitecaps in 2017 marked its first win of season, halting a five-match winless drought.

“We’re scratching our heads, trying to figure it out, trying to just get through it,” RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman told the team’s website. “Hopefully if we do, like last year, then we can come out strong.”

Salt Lake has won two straight at Rio Tinto Stadium against the Whitecaps.