Report and Reaction: Gauld leads from the front and White breaks another record as Whitecaps get important victory in Minnesota

Report and Reaction: Gauld leads from the front and White breaks another record as Whitecaps get important victory in Minnesota

Vancouver Whitecaps made is back-to-back wins, and six points taken from Western Conference opposition, with an assured 3-1 victory at Minnesota United on Wednesday.

The Whitecaps came out fast and were two up after only 17 minutes, when Brian White continued his goalscoring ways after his hat-trick at the weekend and Matias Laborda headed home a second. Five minutes of madness and almost self-destructions let the Loons back into things, with a poorly marked goal from Bongokuhle Hlongwane, throwing the home side a lifeline.

A 20-yard blast from Sebastian Berhalter restored Vancouver’s two-goal lead and after that there was no looking back for the visitors, who were led from the front by captain Ryan Gauld and his three assists.

Vanni Sartini made only two changes to his starting line-up from the team that saw off St Louis at the weekend, with the fresh legs of Ranko Veselinovic coming in to the back three and Alessandro Schopf coming in to the midfield, as the ‘Caps lined up in a 3-4-3 formation. Minnesota were down to the bare bones with players out injured and away on international duty.

The home side were coming in to this one on a five game winless streak and four straight defeats. It felt like the perfect time to make the trip to Minnesota and the Whitecaps came out fast and strong, opening the scoring in the 4th minute.

On Saturday it was former Whitecap Jake Nerwinski who helped out his former side with a pair of assists, tonight it was the turn of Michael Boxall.

The Kiwi inexplicably attempted to play a pass back to his keeper Alec Smir, who was making his MLS debut. Leaving it short, Gauld gratefully pounced on the opportunity, playing the ball inside to White, who made no mistake from a few yards out.

The goal not only gave the ‘Caps an early lead, but it also write White’s name further in the Vancouver history books by becoming the all-time leading MLS scorer for the Whitecaps.

The visitor’s excellent start was to get better in the 17th minute.

Gauld played a corner short to Sebastian Berhalter, who returned it back for the Scot to whip in a pinpoint cross for Laborda to convincingly run between two defenders and head home.

The Whitecaps were in dreamland. Two up early and the complete opposite performance from Saturday’s game. But then things continued to play out in reverse as Vancouver tried their best to allow Minnesota back into the game, before eventually doing just that.

Minnesota had upped a gear and some loose play from Yohei Takaoka saw the ball taken off his foot in the 25th minute just to the left of his box. With the goal gaping, the ball was played to Robin Lod in front of goal but his weak shot was easily blocked by Veselinovic.

The home side kept the pressure on and referee Victor Rivas threw them a lifeline when he pointed to the spot moments later for an apparent handball on Bjorn Inge Utvik. No replays seemed to show a definitive angle either way, so the call on the pitch stood and Minnesota had a penalty.

Up stepped Joseph Rosales and his poor penalty was expertly turned away by Takaoka, but Minnesota were to pull one back from the resultant corner when the ball was headed on to Hlongwane in the six yard box and the South African made no mistake in drilling the ball home to reduce the deficit.

Poor defensive play by Vancouver and a poor five minute spell in general and they were now in a battle.

Lod had a great chance to put Minnesota back on level terms in the 42nd minute, racing in on goal but firing his shot into the side netting.

The home side had another couple of half chances before the half ended but Vancouver went in with the narrow lead.

It was a lead that was immediately put under pressure to start the second half, with the ‘Caps surviving a couple of close calls. But survive they did and they increased their lead, somewhat against the run of play, on the hour mark.

Once again it was Gauld pulling the strings, grabbing a hat-trick of assists as he played the ball inside for Berhalter to blast home a beauty in off the post from 20 yards out. This was the second time in Gauld’s career that he put up at least a hat-trick of assists performance, with a four assist outing for Dundee United against Partick Thistle back in 2013.

A trio of subs and seemingly happy with their renewed two goal advantage, Minnesota made all the running.

Takaoka came up with a big save from Hlongwane, after some nice, quick build-up play from the Loons.

After that, Minnesota huffed and puffed in the closing minutes, but Vancouver weren’t really in too much danger due to some good defending and poor finishing and delivery and came away with a big three points.

In the grand scheme of things, this could be a massive result. A six point swing against a Western rival, one that moves them above Minnesota and two points clear of the Loons, who now sink to 8th. It’s a victory that also sees Vancouver move back up to 4th, but in the crazy tightness that this conference is, that sees them nine points off third (albeit with a game in hand) but just four points above the playoff line.

July is a grueling month for the ‘Caps. Eight games in three different competitions and a friendly. Every point is crucial and getting the rest the talismanic Gauld for a little bit towards the end of this one is very welcome. After two unconvincing performances after the international break, it feels that Vancouver have their mojo back. Now they need to milk it for all its worth.

FINAL SCORE: Minnesota United 1 – 3 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 19,684

SCORING SUMMARY:
4’ – VAN – Brian White (Ryan Gauld)
17’ – VAN – Mathías Laborda (Ryan Gauld, Sebastian Berhalter)
30’ – MIN – Bongokuhle Hlongwane (Hassani Dotson)
60’ – VAN – Sebastian Berhalter (Ryan Gauld, Alessandro Schöpf)

STATS:
Possession: MIN 55% – VAN 45%
Shots: MIN 17 – VAN 6
Shots on Goal: MIN 4 – VAN 4
Saves: MIN 0 – VAN 2
Fouls: MIN 13 – VAN 13
Offsides: MIN 2 – VAN 2
Corners: MIN 6 – VAN 5

BOOKINGS:
13’ – MIN – Jeong Sang-bin
23’ – MIN – Alejandro Bran
28’ – VAN – Brian White
39’ – MIN – Michael Boxall
45’+4 – VAN – Ryan Gauld
81’ – VAN – Mathías Laborda
90’+6 – MIN – Jordan Adebayo-Smith

MINNESOTA: Alec Smir; Devin Padelford, Miguel Tapias, Michael Boxall; Joseph Rosales, Alejandro Bran (Franco Fragapane 62’), Hassani Dotson, Caden Clark (D.J. Taylor 62’); Robin Lod, Sang Bin Jeong (Jordan Adebayo-Smith 73’), Bongokuhle Hlongwane [Substitutes not used: Zarek Valentin, Morris Duggan, Moses Nyeman]

VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Mathías Laborda, Ranko Veselinović, Bjørn Inge Utvik; Alessandro Schöpf (Giuseppe Bovalina 88’), Pedro Vite (Ralph Priso 62’), Sebastian Berhalter, Luís Martins (Javain Brown 63’); Ryan Gauld (Fafà Picault 75’), Brian White, Levonte Johnson (Ryan Raposo 63’) [Substitutes not used: Isaac Boehmer, Joe Bendik, Belal Halbouni, Nicolas Fleuriau Chateau]

REACTION:

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

VANNI SARTINI

On the performance:

“Yeah, I agree with you. We’ve been the best team for the entirety of the game and unfortunately, it’s a lesson that we need to learn, when Yohei [Takaoka] made that mistake that we almost concede a goal and we didn’t concede a goal, we went crazy for 10 minutes and we concede a penalty and ever on the corner kick where we conceded the goal, we did two silly mistakes of positioning ourselves that we never do and I think that we went into an emotional crisis like say everything was going perfectly and then Yohei made that mistake. So I told the guys at the end of the first half we need to keep playing, keep playing, we are the better team on the field, we need to take risks, we didn’t have that cause we made the mistake, now we kick the ball and then now we’re there defending. So that’s how we came on in the second half and we deservedly-so scored the third goal. Then, I think we didn’t risk until minute 75 and then at the end I think we were a little tired because we’re a little short in terms of playing two games Saturday-Wednesday, we were unable anymore to press high so we had to defend in the box but we defended very well in the box and we went away with a win so I’m really happy.”

On Gauld’s hat-trick of assists:

“He’s an all-star, it’s our captain, our leader, our player, and the idea was let’s try to keep him on the field 90 minutes and then we’ll see in Montréal. Luckily, we were able to give him a little bit of 20 minutes rest so I’m very happy cause probably he’ll start in Montréal too but don’t tell him cause he thinks he’s going to get a day off.”

ATTACKING MIDFIELDER RYAN GAULD

On the game:

“It was a bit of a wild game. I think we started really good, obviously, we got a two-goal lead and then I think we let them back in it more than taking control of the game. We just had a shaky couple of minutes. The penalty – and then obviously Yohei saves it, and then they score off the corner to completely open the game back up. But I think, second half, we knew that they would have to go for it a little bit and leave the game open and thankfully we’ve managed to grab a third.”

On his performance and MLS All-Star selection getting him attention from around league:

“Obviously, it’s nice to have been called-up for that but speaking of the performance, it’s funny cause you can see, obviously, you look at the stats I got three assists but I don’t actually think I played anywhere near my level, I gave the ball away a lot, I didn’t get on it as much, and I missed easy passes. You can look at the getting three assists and that, but I feel like I could have played better. There’s more than I can do to help the boys.”

FORWARD BRIAN WHITE

On finding form over the last two matches:

“Yeah, I think as a forward anytime you can see the ball hit the back of the net, especially in back-to-back games, I think it’s something you can try to build off of and it helps to build confidence. But like I’ve said before, I always try to go into the game confident, try to get – do what I can to help the team – and yeah, it makes it a little bit easier when you’re scoring goals and people see that kind of contribution on the stats sheet but I think if I can continue to work hard for the team, run in behind, make life difficult for centre backs then we can keep pushing things forward.”

MINNESOTA UNITED

HEAD COACH ERIC RAMSAY

On assessing the match…

“It is a very difficult one to sum in the sense that in the grand scheme of this difficult run that we are on, and the circumstances that surround it, there are big elements of that performance that are looking close to where we were when we were at our best pre-internationals, and the strengths and circumstances, so that’s what makes this is disappointing because where you feel like you really need a turn of luck in your favor and the players need something to cling on to. To an extent they’ve given themselves a platform to find that tonight with the volume of chances they’ve created, but there’s no way of looking at the game other than we’ve given ourselves a really mountain to climb in the opening stages of the game, and I would also say very early on in this because it is very important to do so. [Michael] Boxall has been absolutely top for the course of this year. He’s played injured in the last month or so, he has really put his body on the line, and he’s been a top performer, outstanding since I’ve been here. I think that is a completely isolated instance so I feel for him in that sense because it makes the game difficult, but I would say we showed some real signs of life after that we continued to show some real signs of life as the game went on, and now with us nearing the point in which we have some players returning there is some light at the end of what feels like a very long tunnel then I can live with that.”

On what needs to change to get the team out of this slump…

“To be honest it’s to an extent now as simple as welcoming players back from injuries,welcoming players back from internationals, and getting back to how we felt prior to all thishaving taken place, and that is a very realistic take on this situation. Obviously, we look at this period with real regret and real disappointment that we haven’t picked up points that perhaps we could or should have done. But ultimately there’s a big set of circumstances around that which has made that really difficult and those set of circumstances are about to come to an end and we are about to hit a period where players return, we can freshen things up, we can take some minutes off guys that really have probably taken themselves to a limit and we are approaching the transfer window so there’s a lot of stuff for us to cling as to as a staff as I’ve said or repeated over the course of this little run if we felt that we were absolutely at our limit and the club was pushing on all fronts that we are firing on all cylinders in the perspectives of player availability and right at the limit and these results it would be tough to swallow.

Obviously that isn’t the case for us so I’m always trying to keep that in mind and making sure that I’m balancing how I speak to the players and balancing how I speak to you guys and conversations I have with myself I suppose so it is not an easy situation and we look back tonight and really disappointed with ourselves because that is a winnable game and every statistic you look at will tell you that on the back of that performance so it is a real double edged sword I would say about tonight.”

On his initial coaching points on the set piece concession…

“I thought I would say that’s a theme across the three goals are the goals that you really hope not to give away, and you shouldn’t give away make life incredibly difficult in the set play obviously we’ve given a lot of space in the box away as the ball has been sent back that was supposed to be delivered in that respective of circumstances that is certainly not a good enough and that is what the players will look back and be very self-critical and obviously we will really look at ourselves in the sense that as whether we push that enough and will certainly push the players on it so I would say each of the three goals is so frustrating to see and when you couple that with the chances we’ve missed and not taken that makes it a very frustrating night.”

On the chances the team created and what can be improved to finish the chances…

“That’s a real positive tonight. Objectively that is a step back toward where we were, previous to this little spell we are in now. We typically were a team, definitely at home that created a load of chances, in the way that we were creating chances tonight and doing in a very systematic way. I think you can look two things of course, the quality in which those players are taking those chances and of course we show a lack of composure, lack of cleanness, lack of precision, but you can also put pretty cleanly on the table as well that we are missing our number 9s at the moment. That is largely who you look to in those situations. I am trying to balance the fact that we have to be critical, we have to look at ourselves, we have to push. I have to be critical, but I can’t be too frustrated given our situation, because there is a very quick fix just around the corner in that sense. We will welcome Teemu [Pukki] and Tani [Oluwaseyi] back when the time comes and of course we will push Bongi [Hlongwane] and Sang Bin [Jeong] and the players around those guys to really improve in front of goal. That is our job and I’m sure those players would say that too.”

On his thoughts on the team’s defensive solidity…

“I don’t think we gave away nearly the number of chances that we have done in recent weeks. That I would say is partly to do with how we attacked, how we sustained the attacks, how we played the game, largely in the opposition’s half which has obviously been a problem for ours over the course of the last four or five games. You’ve got to take the game as a whole in that sense. We haven’t given up really good quality chances in any sense today, obviously each of the three goals you look at as being very, very avoidable. So, that again is a step forward. This is why it’s a really difficult one to talk about, a difficult one to feed back to the players because they are relative to where we’ve been in this little period. Some big steps forward today, but ultimately we have lost the game and we should have won the game and there is a lot we can pick up on and be grateful around so it’s a tough one.”

On his thoughts about goalkeeper Alec Smir…

“Alec [Smir] was steady, he wasn’t called upon on many occasions I wouldn’t say. I don’t think he was really tested but certainly looked like a steady presence. I’m not going to level any criticism at him at all in this situation, to come in really difficult circumstances, made his debut in MLS, and the team has largely performed well, relatively solid in front of him. Yeah, solid.”

On if Vancouver’s third goal was a spatial or awareness issue…

“No, that’s not quite the case. Devin’s [Padelford] given the ball away or sort of cleared short of where you want to clear and the balls dropped in a position where we’ve not got players covering the space. It’s probably not quite along those lines but a disappointing goal to give away. I don’t think from that distance you’d expect to give a goal away like that so it’s a combination of us not probably getting really good pressure on the ball and reacting to the ball turning over and then perhaps on another day Alec [Smir] does better but again I’m keen not to criticizing him because he’s had a really steady night.”

On Alejandro Bran playing for Costa Rica yesterday and starting for Minnesota United today…

“That’s the situation we’re in unfortunately. We felt like Alejandro [Bran] with the number of minutes he played last night and the minutes he’s played over the course of the tournament he could come in and give us some fresh legs. We’re obviously at this point in time really desperate for something to cling onto in that sense. I stand by that decision, he had some really good moments in the game, perhaps you’d say at points maybe looked a little bit leggy but that’s expected given the circumstances. It was a choice between Moses [Nyeman] playing consecutive games at a really high level, having really run himself into the ground the other day or welcoming Alejandro back with fresh legs to an extent. Albeit a strange set of circumstances I would certainly make that decision again and Alejandro had some good moments.”

On Joseph Rosales penalty and if the players decided who would take it…

“That’s the players having decided that. I wouldn’t have big problems with Jo [Joseph Rosales] taking the penalty. Obviously you see he is a player with a high-level technical ability, he strikes the ball well with composure and confidence.”

On the transfer window opening soon and wanting to get reinforcements early in the
window…

“Of course. I don’t think anyone would look at it any differently. We really suffered over the course of the last five games or so, and in some senses through a really strange set of circumstances maybe that lots of MLS clubs aren’t living or haven’t lived to this extent. When you take into consideration the absences, the injuries, the suspensions, the transfers out ahead of the window opening, we – everyone at the club is on the same page – would like to do some business relatively quickly in order to give us that sense of reinforcements coming. We want to have good players coming through and I’m sure everyone behind the scenes will be working really hard to make sure that happens.”

GOALKEEPER ALEC SMIR

On the buildup for today…

“It was just exciting to realize this moment would come for me. Just excitement and just trying to prepare in every way I can to be ready for tonight.”

On how he felt throughout the game with adversity early in the game…

“It was a tough start, but I just enjoyed it. I just tried to have a good time, be present, and enjoy the moment. Felt good to be out there.”

On it just being another game…

“In the beginning, obviously a little hectic and a lot going on, and a tough start. I felt great, very comfortable. We’ll have to go back and look at the goals, but I felt good.”

On this experience at Allianz Field compared to the 2022 All-Star Game appearance…

“A little different but this one was really exciting. It’s awesome to play in front of our fans and have that experience at home for my MLS debut, it was amazing.”

On how many games he’ll have to play before the media stop bringing up goalie wars…

“We’ll see. I enjoyed it. It was a great experience and I love that that’s kind of my catch phrase. It’s awesome.”

On plans with his debut jersey or patch…

“We’ll keep the patch, keep the jersey eventually, try to grab a ball and the gloves, maybe. Just try to keep the memento of the night, lots of pictures and videos, it was great.”

On catching up with Sebastian Berhalter…

“He [Sebastian Berhalter] went to UNC [University of North Carolina] where we shared the field for about a year before he left. He’s a great guy. He scored a fantastic goal, so I was giving him a tough time for that. But it was a great goal and good to see him, great guy. He apologized because he knew it was my debut, feels bad. But at the same time, happy for him, it was a great finish.”

DEFENDER MICHAEL BOXALL

On dropping three points…

“It’s just a tough game to reflect on when obviously we came in on a tough spell, a tough period like we have in the moment. We start the game with me just gifting them a goal and that kind of sucks the energy out of the stadium, out of our team, and any momentum you’re trying to get going forward just kind of disappears. Everyone else working hard creating chances, but tonight, that’s 100 percent on me. We’re at the point where we need to be fighting tooth and nail and scrapping every time we can to stay in games. We can’t be just be gifting and doing shitty plays like I did to start the game.”

On his pass that led to Vancouver’s first goal…

“With Alec [Smir] in goal, [I] just kind of missed one that he could hit first time. At this point you don’t need to be overthinking, just do the simple shit right. I feel for Alec because it’s his debut, he’s really done nothing wrong tonight. He works hard at training every day and deserves this opportunity and for me to start off like that… Yeah, I feel for him.”

On changes needed to turn games around…

“Me not doing what I did tonight. You look at so many of the games and for large these games where there’s been a couple games where decisions haven’t gone our way, the rub of the green hasn’t gone our way. Austin [FC] at home, the first 15 minutes or so of the Portland [Timbers] game where we’re sort of fighting and scraping. We need to organize, a few bodies came back from international duty but we just have to keep scraping on both ends. Defensively, do my part and lead and be a bit more ruthless defending our goal. If we’re staying in games for awful longer, then I know the guys up top are going to put one of those chances away. Once we have the lead then we’re in a different ball game. We just keep fighting.”

On the mentality of the team…

“It doesn’t feel like that. After today, all fingers should be pointed at me. I don’t think anyone else really made glaring mistakes that led us to not putting up points tonight. The overall mood is positive even after dropping points so late in Portland. The trainings, everyone has been positive and coming into today’s game. But it just changes in the first five minutes when that first goal goes in.”

On if players are also looking forwards to possible transfers to bring into the team…

“Possibly yeah, I mean, that’s above my pay grade. I’m sure Eric [Ramsay] would like some decision headaches on who he’s putting in the lineup, but that’s above me. If we can get guys healthy and guys from international duty and whoever comes I’m sure. We got the front office doing their job to continually improve the squad. We got to get core, and we obviously got an incredible fan base who through the thin of it the last month or so they’re still being super supportive, and are grateful for the crowd that we get here.”

On his feelings about losing multiple games in a row…

“I haven’t really been counting but it feels like a long time, obviously longer than what we’re used to, particularly some of the home games where it feels like they’re stashed away from you. It’s close but we’re just not quite getting it done. We have to keep working, hopefully a few guys come back and get back on track.”

On what he thinks it’s going to take to finish chances on goal…

“I mean if I saw those chances in any other game, I’m expecting at least two or three of those to go in when you see what my team does at training week in and week out. It would be a completely different mindset if we were giving up goals and then weren’t creating those chances. The fact that we are and we’ve been defensively tight, we can get back to how we were and turn this corner.”

On if it was one of the younger players who had a rough night, what would he say…

“I don’t know, I mean as a young player you’re expected to make mistakes because that’s how you learn but I’m old as shit, I shouldn’t be doing that.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. David kent at 06:45

    A great report on the game,we are very lucky to have such reports on the caps every game, like to see you doing the games

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