Report and Reaction: Revs find scoring touch to down Whitecaps despite Gauld double

Report and Reaction: Revs find scoring touch to down Whitecaps despite Gauld double

New England Revolution found their goalscoring form at the worst possible time for Vancouver Whitecaps, scoring three first half goals to see off their Canadian visitors 3-2 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon.

Noel Buck had fired New England ahead early, with a 20-yard screamer, before Ryan Gauld continued his rich vein of form to bring the Whitecaps level six minutes later. But further goals from Giacomo Vrioni and Esmir Bajraktarevic saw the Revolution go into the half with a 3-1 lead and there was no looking back for the home side after that, who comfortably held on in the second half.

New England could, and should, have added to their goal haul after dominating proceedings after the restart against a visiting Vancouver side that looked a shadow of the road warriors they had been to start the season, and while Gauld’s second of the match, a 25-yard banger deep into stoppage time, reduced the deficit to one, it was too little, too late.

Coming off a two-week break, Vanni Sartini made five changes to the team that took at huge three points of Colorado at BC Place in their last outing, with Ali Ahmed away with Canada and Andres Cubas away with Paraguay at Copa America. The Whitecaps lined up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Damir Kreilach coming in to lead the line with Brian White and making two changes to his back three.

New England headed into the match with the lowest goals scored tally in MLS, averaging less than one a game, but Sartini expected an under pressure home side to come out hungry and fast, and the Revolution took the game to the visitors from the start, finding the breakthrough just seven minutes in.

Vrioni’s shot from just inside the box was blocked with the rebound falling to Buck, who drilled home a fierce 20-yarder that beat Yohei Takaoka all ends up and flew into the top left corner and the Revs had the early lead.

New England’s lead lasted just six minutes before Vancouver hit back.

Javain Brown whipped in a lovely cross from the right, perfectly placed for Gauld to stoop and head home the equaliser from just over 12 yards out.

It was the Scot’s 5th goal and 7th goal contribution in his last five league matches, and the Whitecaps were back on level terms.

With their recent form and poor goalscoring record, that goal felt like the ascendancy had swung largely back to the ‘Caps but Caleb Porter’s side picked themselves up, dusted themselves down, and retook the lead in the 22nd minute.

Dylan Borrero got the ball in plenty of room and slipped the ball through to Vrioni, who timed his run to perfection, staying onside and tucking the back past Takaoka to make it 2-1 to the Revolution.

The Whitecaps had a great opportunity to get back on level terms once again in the 35th minute.

Brown once again was causing problems for the New England defence out wide and he got the better of his man to send a low cross into the net post. White got onto it well and tried to poke it home from a few yards out but was denied by a great point blank stop from Revs goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic.

It was to prove to be a costly miss, as New England extended their lead with five minutes of the half remaining when Bajraktarevic took a touch inside to make room to get a shot off at the back of the box, with his effort deflecting off the back of Sebastian Berhalter to loop high over Takaoka and into the Whitecaps net.

That was how things stood at half time, and it was a long road ahead for the Whitecaps in the second half, but they could take some solace from their good away form and some potential game changers on the bench.

Vancouver knew they needed to come out strong in the second half and White had their first look on goal four minutes after the restart, pulling a header wide right.

Borrero saw his fierce strike parried away by Takaoka on the hour mark, with Vrioni curling the rebound past the far post to keep the ‘Caps in the game. Five minutes later and Takaoka was called into action again, acrobatically tipping over a dipping effort from Borrero, as the home side continued to boss the game.

Vancouver sub Giuseppe Bovalina finally brought Ivacic back into the match, with the Revs keeper making a save from the Australian in the 68th minute that he made look much easier than it was. Bovalina had another look on goal in the 79th minute, pulling his effort wide, as the chances for the Whitecaps were becoming few and far between.

Emmanuel Boateng had a shot in the 90th minute that was easily saved by Takaoka and with the game seemingly set to fizzle out in the four minutes of stoppage time, Gauld reduced the deficit from nowhere in the dying embers of the match, blasting home a beauty from 25 yards out.

Too little, too late and the Whitecaps got what they deserved from the match, nothing. They lacked any real attacking threat and instead of taking the game to New England in the second half, they felt clueless and impotent for much of the match, and looked dead on their feet come the full time whistle.

Vanni has always said that games against the Eastern teams are like bonus points, but this was a side that should have been ripe for the picking of all three points and at the very least one. It feels like a massive wasted opportunity to get three points on the board and when they’ve already thrown so many away at home, these are the exact kind of games that you look back on come the end of the season and debate how costly the loss was.

With a tough trip to Portland next weekend they are going to have to bounce back quickly because another defensive display like this and they will be ripped apart. The Whitecaps can’t simply keep relying on Gauld to produce and they need to find a way to boss the midfield without Cubas. And that needs to start in seven days’ time.

FINAL SCORE: New England Revolution 3 – 2 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 27,078

SCORING SUMMARY:
7’ – NE – Noel Buck
13’ – VAN – Ryan Gauld (Javain Brown)
21’ – NE – Giacomo Vrioni (Dylan Borrero)
39’ – NE – Esmir Bajraktarevic
90’+4 – VAN – Ryan Gauld (Ralph Priso)

STATS:
Possession: NE 56.5% – VAN 43.5
Shots: NE 19 – VAN 14
Shots on Goal: NE 7 – VAN 8
Saves: NE 6 – VAN 4
Fouls: NE 12 – VAN 11
Offsides: NE 0 – VAN 0
Corners: NE 3 – VAN 4

BOOKINGS:
29’ – NE – Xavier Arreaga
89’ – VAN – Fafà Picault
90’+2 – VAN – Sebastian Berhalter

NEW ENGLAND: Aljaž Ivačič; Nick Lima, Dave Romney, Xavier Arreaga, Dejuan Jones; Noel Buck (Andrew Farrell 71’), Ian Harkes; Esmir Bajraktarevic (Emmanuel Boateng 86’), Carles Gil, Dylan Borrero; Giacomo Vrioni [Substitutes not used: Earl Edwards Jr., Harry Kessler, Jonathan Mensah, Jack Panayotou, Peyton Miller]

VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Javain Brown, Ranko Veselinović, Bjørn Inge Utvik; Ryan Raposo (Giuseppe Bovalina 60’), Pedro Vite (Ralph Priso 90’+2), Sebastian Berhalter, Luís Martins (Levonte Johnson 79’); Ryan Gauld; Brian White, Damir Kreilach (Fafà Picault 46′) [Substitutes not used: Isaac Boehmer, Mathías Laborda, Tristan Blackmon, Belal Halbouni, Jeevan Badwal]

REACTION:

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

VANNI SARTINI

On his team’s performance tonight:

“The first half was a game of two phases. We played very well when we had the ball, we had chances to score two or three goals, us too. But it was too easy for them to break us and the way the midfield was shaped, it didn’t pay off, to be honest. It was too easy for them to beat our midfield and arrive there. That being said, they shot four times and scored three goals. It was a little bit of a game that didn’t go in our favour, because again, we had chances in the first half, a lot of chances in the second half. The second half became more of like an ‘emergency’ game because we were down two goals, and so from minute 60 we played very offensively, almost giving up to the middle block, trying to win the ball either very high or very low, with the hope to score a goal, that came unfortunately too late… If we want to be very positive, you say that the divider is only the third goal, that was a deflection, but it’s not true. We can do much better, especially defensively.”

On Ryan Gauld’s brace and performance in this match:

“Ryan [Gauld] did fantastically, first half as a ten behind the two strikers, was finding the spot every single time, was combining, serving assists and having the possibility. Then he had the big chance at the beginning of the second half and unfortunately he hit the defender in the box, and then he scored the [late] goal. I think his effort, I asked him to play three different positions today, starting as a number ten, then played in two tens as Fafa [Picault] came on, was on the right and then, when Giuseppe [Bovalina] came on, we went 4-4-2 and he went left winger, he did it every time with maximum effort.”

On the halfway point of the season:

“I want to see a little bit more. I think we are okay because we are in a playoff position. I don’t think we are in a bad situation, but I think we can do a little more.”

RYAN GAULD

On tonight’s loss:

“It definitely wasn’t the performance we were looking for. It was flat. We didn’t play with any intensity. It’s frustrating to come away with nothing. I don’t think there’s too many positives we can take from that. It was a pretty poor performance overall.”

On the play of New England’s Carlos Gil:

“Gil destroyed us tonight. I think he was the best player on the park by a mile.”

On his own two goal performance:

“I’ve said this before, I would trade any goals I score for three points. While it’s nice to score, I’d much rather have no goals and three points.”

On what the team can work on ahead of next week’s game vs Portland:

“From tonight, there is a lot we can do to improve on, like being more aggressive. I actually think first half we’ve done some things pretty well with the ball, we moved it quite alright, we got into their final third a few times, but I would say that the biggest improvements we need are without the ball. We were too easy to play against tonight. If we’re like that against Portland with guys like Evander and Moreno and Rodriguez, you know, we’ll be in trouble because they’ve got some decent players. When we allow players like that the amount of space we gave them [today], they will really punish us, so we’re going to have to work hard in training to make sure that the front guys from Portland don’t do the same.”

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

HEAD COACH CALEB PORTER

On the Revolution’s three-goal opening half tonight:

“I think we’ve played for spells exactly like that, it’s just the goals came [tonight]. That has been the missing piece, just that precision and that final third execution. I thought it was a dominant performance. It’s too bad the way it ended, because it makes it feel tighter than it was. In my opinion, the way we played the second half, it should have been four or five [to] one, easy. [It] was very comfy in the second half. I thought we controlled the game, but it’s also good to have something to talk about and something for me to be on their backs this week to keep them locked in and hungry. But three wins in a row and we’re playing well. We’re playing extremely well, and I thought we got great performances today. It’s just too bad at the end of the game to give up that late goal, and obviously, I would’ve liked to see at least two or three more goals in that second half, and I thought we should have scored them.”

On New England controlling the match:

“Yeah, I thought we played with a purpose. Obviously, we were able to play out, play through them with patience and purpose and that’s the key – the purpose. There was a purpose on the end of the passing and acceleration, there was penetration, and there was chance creation. We’ve still got to score more though, but I love that we got three goals and I love that we responded after conceding to go 1-1. That shows the mentality is changing and I love that the guys were a little ticked off at the end of the game. We’ve won three in a row and they were kind of mad that they didn’t score more and that they conceded. So, that’s a great mentality. We’re not relieved to win; we’re expecting to win now. We’re not hoping to win, we’re expecting. So, if we play like we did tonight, we can beat anybody. We can beat anybody in this league. Got great performances across the board. A late scratch, Mark[-Anthony Kaye], had to put Noel [Buck] in. I told Noel before the game, ‘It’s not an accident,’ just like it wasn’t an accident Dave Romney got his opportunity, or Ian Harkes or Ema Boateng comes in. Those are things that happened for a reason along this journey. I love to see him [Buck] come in and smash a goal and have a great performance. I thought Ian Harkes, as well, played really well.”

On the three goals from Buck, Bajraktarević, and Vrioni:

“The other thing I told Vrioni before the game is that he’d probably score the winner today, because he’s been working hard, he’s been getting in good spots. The adversity that he’s gone through and the team has gone through, that’s shaped us in a good way. That has made us stronger. It’s brought us together. It’s a part of the process. We know there’s a start of the year, we know where we want to be at the end. Along the way, you don’t know how it’s going to go, but if you’ve been around the block, you know there’s going to be adversity. There’s been a lot more this year than I’ve ever seen, but it’s actually made us better. It’s made us tougher and now that we’ve come through it, we’re mentally and physically stronger, and Giacomo is a great example. For him to finish that goal, excellent goal, good run, good finish. I’m really happy for him.”

On the defensive performance:

“Yeah, I thought the goals from them were a little lucky and unlucky for us. The first one, it’s a cross and I guess you could call it a good header, but I don’t think it’s a great goal. Obviously, the shot from distance, it’s probably a point-zero-zero-zero-zero-one expected goals, probably, on that. I mean, you never see that, it’s crazy, but in the end, we did enough to win. It just reminds us, in this game, you let your guard down, you get punched in the face, and that’s a great reminder for our guys. I also thought there were a couple other crosses where they got a head to things in the box, so those are things I’ll show them this week. I’m going to keep being on their backs. We’re nowhere near where we need to be. We’re still in a hole. We’ve got to keep fighting, and we’re just scratching the surface of the team that we want to be. But I love that we’re growing in confidence and that our execution is getting better and better, and I love that we scored three goals.”

On watching the young talent in the system and 16-year-old Peyton Miller appearing on the MLS matchday roster for the second time:

“Yeah, I’m always watching. I’ve always got my eye on the young guys, for sure. With Peyton [Miller], I loved what I saw out of him in preseason and then he got hurt, unfortunately. He would have played minutes this year. We had to play a ton of guys. Ryan Spaulding played a ton, we moved Nick [Lima] over there at times this year, because DeJuan [Jones] was out for, I think it was six or seven weeks. So, it was too bad because he would have gotten a run of games, because I do, I see him as the number-two left back for us. He needs to work himself back into that spot, but I love his talent. He’s athletic, he’s quick, he gets forward. He’s a converted winger and I think he’s got a really bright future. In the game he got hurt against Orlando in preseason, I said it after the game, I thought he was one of the best players on the field, so he’s got a bright future.”

On the play between Noel Buck and Ian Harkes in the midfield:

“Yeah, the good thing is those two guys [Noel Buck and Ian Harkes] have played together in training every single day. We do a lot of tactical work almost every day. We work in our shape and we work both groups in the shape, so that everybody is ready for exactly this. We’re not just preparing our group that’s going to start, we’re preparing both groups to play and we are developing every guy in our game model, every single day. So, those two guys have played together every single day, and I think you saw there was a really good chemistry there. Because they’ve been prepared, it was seamless for them to step in.”

On the velocity and accuracy of Noel Buck’s goal:

“It’s an unbelievable shot. We talked about [Ryan] Gauld’s [goal], that’s probably a point-zero-one – I don’t know – as well, but unbelievable. He’s got that in him. I saw it last year when I was watching film on him. For whatever reason, early in the year, we weren’t seeing that. I think it’s just taken time for him, like everybody, to find that balance of, ‘Here’s our tactics, but also go and play, man. Go and play. Don’t be a robot and let your instincts take over.’ So, that was him stepping forward and having a go. He does have that in him, and I’d like to see it more.”

On injury updates on Mark-Anthony Kaye, who was a late scratch, and Noel Buck:

“Noel [Buck], I think, is fine. He had a cramp. Obviously, long week for him. He played two games [with England], travel, so maybe that’s a part of it. Mark[-Anthony Kaye], he took a knock in the last game on his knee, or his quad tendon, and he trained but it was partial training. Then he was 100 percent on Friday, but he felt like at the end of the training, he had kind of a sore hamstring. Basically today, we made the decision. We brought him in early and made the decision, he couldn’t go. So, we’re hoping, obviously, that he’s available next week, but we’ll see.”

On his takeaways from the second quarter of the 2024 season:

“We wanted to get 13 points minimum [in] quarter two. We got 12, so we’re a point underneath that. We wanted to get at least four wins and a draw, and we got four wins. I would have loved five wins, but by and large, a marked improvement, because we got one win in the first quarter and we got four in the next. I still think we’re conceding a few too many goals, but we’ve scored more goals, so that’s great. I’d like to see our plus-minus on the goal differential still get whittled down a little bit. But unquestionable, much, much better this quarter than the first. The next one, I’d like to see in the nine games now, because we’ll chunk it with the nine, I’d like to see at least five wins.”

DEFENDER DEJUAN JONES

On the positive takeaways from tonight’s victory:

“I thought we did a great job. Scoring three goals is always great in front of our home crowd, and we played with a lot of confidence tonight. I thought we moved the ball really well, showed a lot of patience on the ball, which was good. We made [Vancouver] work a little bit more and I think it worked out well for us.”

On responding to Vancouver’s first goal with a two-goal rally to close the opening half:

“It was a great response. Obviously, always good to score that early goal, but then they responded with a goal. Our response to stay on the front foot, to not go in a shell, was important. Ultimately, to score to get that two-goal advantage going into halftime, that was big-time for us.”

On New England’s depth and chemistry in the midfield:

“Carles [Gil] is always going to do his thing. Noel [Buck] stepping in… to score that banger after coming back from international duty was really big-time and he gave a great shift tonight. Ian [Harkes] was very good tonight keeping the ball forward, swinging the ball, really giving us a good rhythm of the game. So, really good performance by our midfielders today. Also, [Andrew] Farrell stepped in and did a really good job zipping balls, helping us close out that game.”

MIDFIELDER ESMIR BAJRAKTAREVIC

On the positive takeaways from tonight’s win:

“Yeah, it was definitely one of our best performances of the season. Something to build on, for sure. We still are pretty low on the table, so we want to just keep collecting wins.”

On New England’s attack gaining confidence:

“Yeah, I think just the longer we play together, the more we get connected. Yeah, I think we just grow game by game.”

On he and Noel Buck both scoring:

“I was so happy for [Buck]. He was coming back from an injury, and then, in and out of the lineup. So, I was very happy to see him score. Yeah, he’s a very close friend of mine, so I was very happy to see that.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

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