VANCOUVER — At least for one night, the Vancouver Whitecaps didn’t have to answer questions about their leaky defence.
Cristian Techera scored on a stunning strike three minutes after a Real Salt Lake own goal in the first half Wednesday, and the Whitecaps’ defence held the fort from there in a 2-0 victory.
The win was Vancouver’s first at B.C. Place Stadium in Major League Soccer since May 11 and snapped an ugly 1-3-2 run overall.
"We took our chances," said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. "Obviously the first was an own goal, but a great bit of football, movement of the ball. The second is a wonder goal.
"I challenged them in the second half to show mettle, show resolve and don’t be soft — and we showed that."
Vancouver (8-8-4) entered play having allowed two goals or more in six of its last seven league matches and 33 total in just 19 games this season after blowing a late lead in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the Colorado Rapids.
The Whitecaps — who allowed just 36 goals all of last season, but came into Wednesday tied for the worst goals-against average in MLS at 1.74 — also kept a clean sheet for the first time in MLS since April 23, a stretch of 11 outings.
"I talk about character in this group," said Robinson, whose team picked up its third shutout of 2016 after recording 13 last year. "We showed character, we showed resolve."
After a sleepy opening half hour that could have easily seen the visitors nudge in front, Vancouver grabbed the lead in the 34th minute. Matias Laba fired a dangerous cross into the Real penalty area that Salt Lake’s Tony Beltran could only clear off fellow defender Justen Glad and into his own net.
Techera then put his stamp on the game in the 37th, lashing a shot with his left boot from 35 yards out that flew into the top corner past a helpless Jeff Attinella.
"It was amazing," said Whitecaps midfielder Nicolas Mezquida. "I’m happy for him because he deserves a game like tonight and a goal like tonight."
Techera was mobbed by teammates by the corner flag after the eye-popping effort, as the five-foot-two Uruguayan celebrated his second goal of the season and second in as many games after also connecting from the penalty spot against Colorado.
Known affectionately as "The Bug," Techera found the back of the net seven times in 22 games in his first season with Vancouver in 2015, but was held off the scoresheet for 17 straight prior to Saturday.
"The Techera that we saw last year is still here," said Robinson. "He’s been carrying a little injury the last four, five, six weeks, which is why he hasn’t played or started many games.
"Hopefully he’s getting back to where he was."
The feeling after the goal could have been much different for the hosts had Salt Lake (8-6-5) buried one of its two early chances.
Yura Movsisyan saw a header stopped by a diving David Ousted in the 15th minute before an unmarked Omar Holness put a shot over the bar in the 22nd.
"I’m really proud of our performance with this group," said Real head coach Jeff Cassar, who only brought 16 players to Vancouver and was without star striker Joao Plata because of injury. "The last three or four games we’ve been doing a lot of good things and then paying for our mistakes."
Whitecaps defender/midfielder and Canadian international Marcel de Jong, who signed an 18-month contract with Vancouver on Monday, subbed on for Techera in the 66th minute to a nice round of applause.
Vancouver striker Masato Kudo started in his first appearance since suffering a broken jaw on May 11, and had a good chance in the 69th minute, but saw his shot stopped by Attinella.
Real had a late surge, including Movsisyan rattling the Vancouver bar in injury time, as the Whitecaps switched off late in what was otherwise a convincing performance.
"The good teams in this league keep clean sheets," said Robinson. "We’ve got to get back to doing that. We did it well last year and we haven’t done it well enough this year."
Notes: De Jong picked up a yellow card in the 89th minute. … David Edgar, another Canadian international who also inked an 18-month contract with Vancouver this week, was also in attendance, but the defender did not dress. … The Whitecaps host Orlando City SC on Saturday before welcoming English Premier League side Crystal Palace for a friendly on Tuesday. … Salt Lake is winless in four and just 1-2-3 over its last six.