The 'Caps traditionally start well, have a mid-season dip in form, and improve in the final third of the campaign. It's a tradition that they're on course to replicate this year. The key difference being that their highs have been are higher, and their lows are not nearly as pronounced as in seasons past.
In the first third, they finished with a 6-2-3 record, good enough for 20 points. In the second, they were 5-1-5, which dropped them down to 16. And in the third, they've already added 6 from two matches.
After tonight's victory, they trail only DC United, who they have a game in hand on. They have conceded the fewest goals, and have the best goal difference. They're flying high, though Sporting Kansas City, with all their games in hand, remain a concern.
With Real Salt Lake fielding a weakened side after their Champions League excursions, it would come as no surprise if they chose to park the bus. Fortunately, that was never really an option. Vancouver started early, and their efforts were rewarded with a penalty kick.
Octavio Rivero ran forward, Elias Vasquez put his hand on Rivero's back, and Vasquez pushed down. With no chance of keeping his balance, the Uruguayan went to ground, and referee Chris Penso rightly pointed to the spot. The worst part of it, from a Real perspective, is that the ball delivered by Nicolás Mezquida was of the poor variety.
It was just another day at the office for the 'Caps. But Real's game plan, whatever it was, went right out the window. Within half an hour, they trailed by one, and found themselves down one manager.
Jeff Cassar was incensed by the penalty, he argued a spot kick, and after he continued to argue while the referee walked away, Penso gave Cassar his walking papers.
Ten minutes later, Vancouver doubled it. Kekuta Manneh, finding himself on the right side for once, threaded the ball through four defenders, and found Pa Modou Kah, who buried it. It was Kah's third goal in two matches. With Jordan Harvey, Kendall Waston, Pa Modou Kah, and now Jordan Smith, Vancouver has a backline that can score.
If the 'Caps can keep scoring in bunches, perhaps manager Carl Robinson will let David Ousted take a penalty kick to get the Great Dane in on the action. He certainly didn't have much to do tonight.
Less than five minutes into the second half, Jordan Harvey tried to set up Octavio Rivero, but when the ball proved too quick, Cristian Techera was there to pounce on it. And that's why you need players like Techera who can make those kinds of runs.
The home side almost made it 4-0 after Real Salt Lake got a corner. The 'Caps are an excellent counterattacking side, and had three players on side and between RSL's last defender and goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. Kekuta Manneh was selfish.
He wanted to get on the score sheet himself. But when you're up by three, you can afford to be selfish. It would have done wonders for his confidence. Still, Rivero and Techera were options for a tap in.
Techera, anxious to add a second, hit the crossbar in the 66th minute. Two minutes later, he got it and immediately became the answer to a trivia question. For it was Vancouver's 200th Major League goal.
Up by four with more than twenty minutes to go, Vancouver looked to extend their lead. They have scored 5 or more goals on 21 occasions, but none since 2003. Tonight, Techera alone could have had four or five. He hit the cross bar again, though had it gone in, it would have counted as an own goal, as it took a deflection.
If you asked him, Carl Robinson would probably say something about keeping all his players happy, maintaining match fitness, giving Rivero a rest, or something along those lines, but when he brought on Darren Mattocks in the 76th minute, it was clear that he wanted to get that fifth goal.
It didn't happen. They had to settle for only four. But despite what the supporters might have sung, four is in fact enough. It got them the victory and moved them to within two points of DC United.
Salt Lake wanted to get out of here, but Abdoulie Mansally wanted to more than most. In a bout of frustration, he lunged a late, studs up tackle on Kendall Waston. There was never any question. He joined his manager in the changing room, while the Whitecaps saw out the victory.
Techera had a stoppage time chance, but the ball didn't settle the way he would like it, and his shot was too late. There would be no fifth goal.
On Wednesday, the 'Caps head to Montreal for the first leg of the CSA Cup Final. Clubs from Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver have vied for The Voyageurs' Cup, but only those from Toronto and Montreal have drank from it.
Will Carl Robinson's men take the spoils? Only time will tell, but it's a busy time of year for the Blue and White Army. From Montreal, they'll head to Kansas City for a weekend tilt with Sporting.