Sandoval lifts Real Salt Lake past Whitecaps
Using a mostly a second-team lineup, Salt Lake (15-10-6) gained a share of first place in the Western Conference.
The Whitecaps (11-11-8) saw their playoff hopes fade some more as they remained four points behind fifth-place Colorado with only four games remaining. Only the top five teams qualify for the postseason.
As a result, Tommy Heinemann took his place after impressing in a win over Montreal. Heinemann, rarely used for most of the season, made his second consecutive start, and third overall. Before last week, he had not started since April 20.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis went with 10 new additions to his starting lineup as he rested key players in preparation for Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup final against D.C. United. The winner of that game will qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League.
The moves paid off early as Sandoval bounced a header past Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted. It was the third goal of the season for Sandoval, who put in a cross from Lovel Palmer on a counterattack after the Whitecaps had controlled the run of play in the early going.
Heinemann had a chance just seconds before halftime, but he headed Young-Pyo Lee’s long lob wide of the goal.
Heinemann was hurt early in the second half as he was blindsided by Salt Lake defender Chris Schuler well ahead of the play. Although Heinemann stayed in the game, he and Gershon Koffie were later replaced by Kekuta Manneh and Darren Mattocks, respectively.
Salt Lake had a chance to go ahead by another goal around the 61st-minute, but Ousted made a sensational save on an attempt by Yordany Alvarez. Ousted lunged to get his hand on the ball, knocking it away for a harmless Salt Lake corner kick that went untouched before going out of bounds.
Ousted made another nice save in the 68th minute on Sebastian Velasquez, diving and catching the ball in his mid-section. The Whitecaps’ goalkeeper made yet another excellent save a little while later as he leaped to get his body on Olmes Garcia’s shot from the right side of the area.
Mattocks had another chance to draw the Whitecaps even in the 86th minute, but sailed a shot from 19 yards just wide of the post.
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