The Vancouver Whitecaps have a new story as they are now undefeated in five MLS matches having won against the Portland Timbers in Major League Soccer on Saturday night.
Brian White scored the lone goal a few minutes past the midway point of the second half.
Now, rather than looking for a win, the ‘Caps are now riding back-to-back victories. And the formerly snake-bitten White has scored in both of them.
White said he was happy to contribute in any way he could, whether that be in goals or creating opportunities for his teammates.
“Obviously, you want to score every game but for me, it is focusing on performance to help the team win,” White said. “If it’s goals, great…but I can help the team win in any way I can.”
Julian Gressel was instrumental in White’s goal. His initial shot was saved by Portland’s goalkeeper, Aljaž Ivačič. But the rebound fell to his feet, and he made quick work of it.
“I saw Brian standing in the middle of goal,” he said. “I tried to hit it across. The defender blocks it. The second one, honestly, it’s just me trying to shoot it as hard as I can across goal and hoping that either a deflection from the defender happens or Brian’s right there and just needs to stick his belly out and dink it in. Yeah, it worked out exactly like I wanted it to.”
The win pushed the Whitecaps further up the standings to 8th overall in the Western Conference, leaping over Austin FC who lost 3-0 to the rampant Los Angeles FC.
It was also the first game of the Cascadia Cup, a regional competition that predates the Whitecaps joining MLS and also involves the Seattle Sounders.
The Whitecaps came out in the first half as the obvious stronger of the two opponents. Leading in shots (7-0), passes (220-100), passing accuracy (85-68 per cent) and 65 per cent possession, the home side understandably felt frustrated not to have something to show for it.
Head coach Vanni Sartini said he “was a little angry” after the first half because he felt they should have been more direct in their progression.
“I thought that in the first half, we were a little bit cocky. We had the ball and were trying to do something beautiful instead of something efficient.”
Sartini said the result did not tell the story of the disparity between the chances either team had. He felt there were more goals to be had, not only in the two that were disallowed by VAR but also in other opportunities.
Losing Andrés Cubas in the 28th minute was particularly harsh as he collided with Tega Ikoba and had to come off with an apparent right shoulder contusion. It forced Sartini into an early substitution, bringing Sebastian Berhalter into the match.
“He felt something deep in the shoulder,” Sartini said. “The first thing that they told me would be that it shouldn’t be, I would say, really, really, really, really worrying. But we’ll see. But he couldn’t move it, so he couldn’t continue to play.”
The home side thought they had finally opened the game’s account in the 50th minute. Ryan Gauld’s corner flew across the mouth of the goal and found Ranko Veselinović at the back post. The tall Serbian centre-back headed the ball past the line, but it was checked by VAR for a foul inside the box and called back.
As the match headed towards the end, Sartini was starting to look at the bench for options. White came on, and within a short amount of time, he make his impact, jumping on a Gressel rebound in the 74th minute.
The goal was White’s second of the MLS season and his fourth in all competitions.
The match started to get away from both teams as the referee tried to calm proceedings down with a number of yellow cards. Even an animated Sartini was carded at one point after a disagreement over the possession of a throw-in.
But the one goal was enough to secure the win and the clean sheet and has helped to make the month of April a positive one in the season’s campaign for the Whitecaps.
Next up for the Whitecaps is the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals versus Los Angeles FC. That match is on April 11. In MLS play, Vancouver will face Austin FC away from home on April 15. That match is at 5:30 p.m.
NOTES: Tonight’s match was Gressel’s 200th match of his MLS career. It was also Cristian Dájome’s 100th match as a Whitecaps player. A crowd of 17,029 watched the match at B.C. Place.