(Photo Credit: @WhitecapsFC/Twitter)
Vancouver Whitecaps’ never say die attitude came to the fore once again in Nashville on Saturday evening, with Javain Brown’s 87th minute equaliser earning the ‘Caps a crucial late point against their Western Conference playoff rivals.
Any questions that the Whitecaps would be suffering a Voyageurs Cup winning hangover can be dispelled with a fighting display that saw them under the cosh in the early going, falling behind to a 17th minute Teal Bunbury header, his seventh goal against Vancouver, fighting back but struggling to break down and really test a resolute Nashville defence, before doing what they kneeded to do with the Jamaican’s late leveller.
Vanni Sartini made four changes from the team that started the Canadian Championship on Tuesday, hoping to add some freshness to the attack and with Lucas Cavallini and Russell Teibert forced out with injuries.
Nashville started strong, forcing a string of corners in the opening minutes, but although the ‘Caps were on the back foot and struggling to clear their lines and get much going offensively, they held firm, despite some scrambles in the box.
Hany Mukhtar came close to giving the home side the lead in the 13th minute, with a curling free kick that didn’t miss the top left corner by much, but Nashville didn’t have to wait long to get their breakthrough and the talented German played a key role after being gifted a poor loose ball from Brian White, whipping in a lovely cross from the right, which Bunbury rose well to meet and head home.
BACK 2 BACK STARTS
BACK 2 BACK GOALS
— Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) July 31, 2022
The Whitecaps had to try and get into the match and it took them till the 28th minute to really test Nashville, with White forcing a diving save from Joe Willis with his effort from the edge of the box.
Nashville didn’t go for the jugular and Vancouver were very much in the frame for getting back into the match, with Ryan Gauld flashing one past the right post with six minutes of the half remaining, but neither team could find another breakthrough and the home side headed in to the break with the narrowest of leads.
It was another atypical Whitecaps first half performance – dealing with danger, not offering too much in attack, yet staying very much in the game and within touching distance of taking something from it in the second half.
And the ‘Caps came out much more aggressive after the restart, but still without testing Willis or finding the key to unlock the Nashville backline.
It was the home side that came closest to adding to their tally two minutes before the hour mark when C.J. Sapong rose well between two Whitecaps defenders but flashed his header wide of the right post.
There wasn’t really much urgency being shown from the home side, who seemed content with their one goal lead, while the ‘Caps continued to struggle to find the much needed key.
That all changed in the 87th minute when Vancouver won a free kick. Gauld sent in another perfect delivery, that was missed by the Nashville defence, and the ball feel to Brown who kneed it home for the equaliser and his first MLS goal.
Javain Brown with his first career MLS goal to equalize in Nashville! pic.twitter.com/sS3HikJEC9
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 31, 2022
The Whitecaps now felt like they would be the only team to grab the winner, but instead Nashville finally reupped their game and caused a few late scrambles in the Vancouver box. Their best opportunity to win it falling to Luke Haakenson, whose right-footed shot was turned away by a sprawling Cody Cropper.
So a point apiece in the first ever meeting between the two sides. They go again at BC Place in a few week’s time. It was the third straight point earned on the road by the Whitecaps and their fourth game unbeaten away from home. They now need to get back to winning at BC Place after back to back league losses their when Houston come a calling in what feels like a must win game if they are to stay in the playoff picture.
FINAL SCORE: Nashville SC 1 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Possession: NSH 50% – VAN 50%
Shots: NSH 17 – VAN 21
Shots on Goal: NSH 3 – VAN 6
Saves: NSH 5 – VAN 2
Fouls: NSH 5 – VAN 12
Offsides: NSH 0 – VAN 0
Corners: NSH 7 – VAN 7
NASHVILLE: Joe Willis; Shaquell Moore (Eric Miller 63), Walker Zimmerman, Dave Romney, Taylor Washington; Teal Bunbury (Jack Maher 63), Sean Davis, Dax McCarty (Brian Anunga 85), Randall Leal (Luke Haakenson 74); Hany Mukhtar, C.J. Sapong [Substitutes not used: Elliot Panicco, Will Meyer, Handwalla Bwana, Ethan Zubak]
VANCOUVER: Cody Cropper; Javain Brown, Ranko Veselinović (Caio Alexandre 81), Tristan Blackmon; Julian Gressel, Andrés Cubas, Michael Baldisimo (Leonard Owusu 52), Ryan Raposo (Tosaint Ricketts 61); Pedro Vite (Cristian Dájome 45), 25.Ryan Gauld; Brian White [Substitutes not used: Isaac Boehmer, Marcus Godinho, Florian Jungwirth, Jake Nerwinski]
On the draw:
“I think we were sluggish in the first 15 minutes, I think we gave the ball away, had to hold them all the time. There’s nothing to correct because the only thing that we did quality in the first half was that it probably looked like we didn’t know if we were the yellow team or the blue team. We lost the ball so easily. I counted eight times in the first 15 minutes that we gave the ball away and that actually we defended really well, because we conceded two chances, the one that the goalie made the save and then the goal. Then magically we took the slap and we woke up so I agree with you, it was a very, very slow start. But from minute 20 to minute 90 for 70 minutes, we were clearly the best team in the field and getting back against this team that was very strong and having the chances to win after the tie, both with Dajo and Tos. I’m very happy.”
On Ryan Gauld wearing the captain’s armband:
“Ryan is being the Ryan that we were seeing last year. It could have gone to six assists when he gave the ball to Tos, unfortunately we didn’t score. So he did fantastically and to be honest, at minute 70 he was probably very tired. The game was very demanding and after the game on Tuesday, very demanding on top of that. So I was thinking ‘What do I do, do I take him off?’ Rico and Mike, they told me ‘Don’t you dare take him off’. So we kept him in and luckily, I have very good assistant coaches and I listen to them and he made a fantastic assist.”
On scoring his first MLS goal:
“As you saw Ryan Gauld with that ball into the box. Dajo was like I needed to get on one of them, because we needed it. When I saw the ball coming in, I was like, I just gotta get a touch on this ball, and I did it and then we got a goal.”
On growing as a young, consistent player:
“You have to do more to be consistent. We have a routine, as players you’re fighting for the game, each and every week. So for me to play, I have to be on top of my thing, coming from the coaches, and each and every one at the club, you know, keep on telling me you gotta be consistently going to be consistent to play week in and week out.”
On getting goals in late stages of the match:
“Honestly, it makes our life even more difficult. It makes it more stressful. I’m sitting back there down 1-0 and we continue to respond, we continue to dig in and really find a way to save games, fight our way back and get ourselves into games and put ourselves into situations where we overcome adversity constantly. That speaks volumes to the player personnel that we have, the coaching personnel, the camaraderie amongst the team in the locker room, and just the overall culture at this club. I think that we have an attitude that’s never say die, never say quit and we continue to perform for 90 minutes. Now we need to do it from start to finish and really make a statement by not conceding goals early and continuing to fight to the final whistle.”
On Nashville SC’s play:
“I think that they just started fast. They are a very well built team with MLS veteran players. They know how to go from start to finish. Tonight we actually did well to earn a point here because this is a very tough place to play. It’s a very tough team to play against in a very tough environment in GEODIS Park, but the first 10, 15, 20 minutes were very difficult. They started fast and they really played to their strengths in terms of getting the ball wide, whipping the ball in the box, winning set pieces, they’re big, they’re strong, they’re athletic, and they took advantage of that in the first half. But that being said, I think that we as a team, can start faster, we can be better. I think that we gave the ball away a lot, very easily, in the first 20 to 25 minutes and I think that will be something that we as a team speak about this week in training, so that it doesn’t happen again.”