(Photo Credit: @WhitecapsFC/Twitter)
Vancouver Whitecaps head into the international break with a skip in their step after making it seven points from three away matches in eight days, following a 1-1 draw against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon, bolstering their playoff credentials and confidence ahead of what will be a very interesting regular season run-in.
It wasn’t a classic. A poor game of football, played on a poor pitch, in a stadium set-up that likely wouldn’t be allowed in MLS if it wasn’t in one of the league’s main media markets. The game came to life at least in the second half, with a Mounsef Bakrar opener and a Ryan Gauld reply from the spot in a five minute spell before the hour mark punctuating a match devoid of much excitement.
Both teams had chances to win it as things did start to liven up in the final quarter of the match, but they had to settle for a point, and the Whitecaps will likely be the happier of the two in the grand scheme of things, although this was most definitely a game they could have won and made a very good road trip even better.
Vanni Sartini made four changes to the team that started Wednesday’s win, with Mathias Laborda coming in for Javain Brown at the back, Andres Cubas returning from suspension in the midfield, and Sam Adekugbe and Pedro Vite bolstering the middle of the park in what is arguably the Whitecaps’ strongest starting XI right now.
The ‘Caps came out flying in their last two matches but it was a more measured and slow paced start to this one in the hot and humid afternoon conditions in New York.
Half chances and long range efforts that didn’t trouble either goalkeeper were the mark of the first 25 minutes, with a passback from Laborda that spun off Yohei Takaoka’s foot the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock.
The home side should have gone ahead in the 37th minute when Maxi Morales played a lovely chipped cutback to a wide open Andres Jasson six yards out in front of goal, but somehow the 21-year-old blasted over with the goal gaping. It was genuinely harder to miss!
The game finally came to life in a five minute spell before the hour mark.
NYCFC took the lead 10 minutes into the second half when Santiago Rodríguez was allowed to run 40 yards with the ball from his own half before playing in Bakrar who fired home through Takaoka’s legs to give the home side the lead.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 2, 2023
New York’s lead didn’t last long.
The ‘Caps immediately went on the offensive after falling behind and won a penalty two minutes later when halftime sub James Sands had his arms wrapped all around Gauld and pulled him down on the box after he was played in by a White pass.
It took a bit of time to calm things down and get the penalty taken, but once it was Gauld finished with aplomb once again to bring Vancouver back on level terms with half an hour left to play.
#VWFC quickly responds!
We are now level in the Bronx with a penalty kick by Ryan Gauld. 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/JYKJTpcWnx
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 2, 2023
Gauld came close to putting Vancouver ahead in the 69th minute with a flashing header off a Ryan Raposo cross before Takaoka saved a Tayvon Gray shot in the 77th minute.
Braian Cufre headed a corner into the side netting for New York with five minutes remaining, before Matt Friese produced a leg save to deny Sergio Cordova. The flag went up for offside on the Venezuelan, but replays showed he was on and the goal would have counted if he’d been able to finish the chance.
The game fizzled out in stoppage time and the points were shared.
The draw kept Vancouver fifth in the Western Conference standings ahead of the rest of the weekend’s action, and while it didn’t give them a three-game winning streak on the road, it did give them a three-game unbeaten one and they’ll head into Toronto in a fortnight’s time confident of extending that after a well-earned and I’m sure much needed bit of time off.
FINAL SCORE: New York City 1 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
55’ – NYC – Monsef Bakrar (Santiago Rodríguez)
60’ – VAN – Ryan Gauld (penalty kick)
Possession: NYC 64.3% – VAN 35.7%
Shots: NYC 16 – VAN 6
Shots on Goal: NYC 3 – VAN 2
Saves: NYC 1 – VAN 2
Fouls: NYC 14 – VAN 16
Offsides: NYC 1 – VAN 2
Corners: NYC 2 – VAN 2
NEW YORK: Matt Freese; Tayvon Grey, Thiago Martins, Birk Risa (Alfredo Morales 69′), Braian Cufré; Keaton Parks (James Sands 46′), Andrés Perea; Andres Jasson (Julián Fernández 56′), Maximiliano Moralez, Santiago Rodríguez; Monsef Bakrar (Richard Ledezma 74′) [Substitutes not used: Luis Barraza, Julián Fernández, Matías Pellegrini, Kevin O’Toole, Mitka Ilenič, Talles Magno]
VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Mathias Laborda (Javain Brown 56′), Ranko Veselinović, Tristan Blackmon; Andrés Cubas; Richie Laryea, Alessandro Schöpf (Sebastian Berhalter 69′), Pedro Vite (Ali Ahmed 81′), Sam Adekugbe (Ryan Raposo 56′); Brian White (Sergio Córdova 82′), Ryan Gauld [Substitutes not used: Isaac Boehmer, J.C. Ngando, Simon Becher, Russell Teibert]
On getting seven points on the road in the last week:
“Yeah, very well. I think everyone would have been signed at the beginning of the week to have seven points more at the end of the week. But that’s going to give us the, I would say, confidence and conviction that we can do it even again. Now, we have another four [away] games and we can raise the bar, trying to make maybe one or two more wins on the road and try to get points everywhere, in order to really arrive in the last four games where we are with our destiny in our hand. So yeah, I’m feeling pretty good to be honest.”
On tonight’s Cascadia match between SEA and POR:
“Yes, yes, that’s very important. That’s a very important game because if Seattle and Portland tie, we win the Cascadia Cup. So yeah, that’s the game that I want to watch and that’s the game that I’m going to root for a tie. And again, we haven’t won this tournament since 2016, so it would be another massive achievement of this group. So that’s the game that I will watch. All the other games I’m okay, whatever happens, happens. I think that the real standing is you have to look at now, because before everyone played, we actually get our game back basically, and so we are, I think, tied with Houston in fourth place at the moment. That’s, I would say, how much this team is working now and, of course, it means that we want to look ahead, but also with the humility to know that we need also to run because there’s teams behind us that want to catch us.”
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER RYAN GAULD
On reaching double digits in MLS:
“Yeah, from an individual standpoint, it’s good. It’s kind of the target I set myself every year is to get into double figures for goals and this is actually the first time I’ve managed that so I’m happy with that. And to take seven points from nine from three tough away games and a tough four or five days that we’ve had on the road has been really positive and I think puts us in a good position for the remaining four games.”
On the teams form on the road:
“Yeah, it’s always nice to get points when you’re not at your best. We’ve played some of the games that we put in good performances but came away with nothing. And a lot of times like going behind today, a lot of times previously on the road, our heads would kind of drop and we wouldn’t be able to get a way back into the game, but it wasn’t long after their goal that we get the penalty and we’re back in the game and I think that’s something that the group truly, really improved on is that resilience and grinding out points.”