Report and Reaction: It was more difficult than it needed to be, but Gauld sparks Whitecaps derby day delight in Portland

Report and Reaction: It was more difficult than it needed to be, but Gauld sparks Whitecaps derby day delight in Portland

(Photo Credit: @MLS/Twitter)

A seven-game road stretch is a daunting prospect for any side, and let’s be frank, a ridiculous one for any team to have to endure in the final third of a season. But that’s what Vancouver Whitecaps face and there’s nothing they can do about it, they just have to go out, become road warriors, and come back to BC Place at the end of September with as big a points haul as they can get.

They got that stretch off to a winning start in lower Cascadia on Saturday evening with a hard-fought 3-2 victory in the end in Portland. It was a well-deserved three points from a match they controlled for the most part, but they made life difficult for themselves by giving up a late goal that gave the Timbers hope and brought a loud crowd into a match that they should have subdued, ultimately hanging on through some resolute defending and sensible game management.

They shouldn’t have found themselves in that position after first half goals from Ryan Gauld and Brian White had them sitting pretty. Felipe Mora gave Portland their first glimmer of hope seven minutes into the second half, in his first regular season start since October 2021, but that was soon extinguished when Gauld got his second of the night with a penalty on the hour mark. That should have been it, but the Timbers kept pushing, reducing the deficit to one once again with an Evander goal five minutes from time.

That set up a frantic finale but Vancouver survived the Portland pressure in the seven minutes of stoppage time to come away with a huge, and very much needed, three points and derby day delight, making it three wins from their last four road games and hopefully setting them up well for the spell ahead.

With the games coming thick and fast on the road over the next month, the one thing you can be fairly sure of is that there will be a lot of rotation and Vanni Sartini will be using most of the first team squad. Sartini made four changes against the Timbers from the team that started last week’s loss to San Jose Earthquakes, with Javain Brown and Ali Ahmed coming into the line-up and Sam Adekugbe getting his first start since his return to the club. Sergio Cordova was pegged to start, but a tight hamstring in training saw him drop to the bench instead, with Brian White keeping his spot and being joined by Gauld up top.

After a fairly uneventful opening, the game sprung into life in the 13th minute. Ahmed broke forward, playing the ball out to his left to Adekugbe. The Canadian international had space to run and played the ball inside to Alessandro Schopf, whose shot was deflected by White into the path of Gauld, who stuck it home at the back post to give the ‘Caps an early lead.

Not the prettiest of finishes but a lovely build up.

That was about it for the goalmouth action until Dairon Asprilla nearly pulled Portland level in the 33rd minute with a spectacular bicycle kick attempt that missed wide left.

Three minutes later and the Whitecaps doubled their lead from out of nowhere with another well-worked team goal.

Ahmed collected a pass from Tristan Blackmon, powered forward and played the ball up to Gauld. The Scot hit the byeline and sent a pinpoint cross in from a ridiculous angle right onto to the head of White, who outjumped Claudio Bravo to head home his team’s second and his club-leading ninth of the season.

Bravo really should not have been outjumped the way he was, but it was a perfect header from White and a nice fingers to the ears celebration!

Two up at the half and the ‘Caps were looking comfortable, but they let the Timbers, who had looked devoid of ideas for much of the match, get back into the game in the 53rd minute.

Asprilla sent a lovely cross in from the right and Mora rose above Ranko Veselinovic to pull one back for Portland.

It was the Chilean’s first goal of the year after returning from a knee injury that cut short his 2022 season, but the Whitecaps can certainly question not attacking the ball more to prevent the opportunity and give the hosts a lifeline.

If Vancouver were worried that Portland were going to launch a comeback, they needn’t have as they restored their two goal advantage on the hour mark when Evander clumsily brought Laryea down in the box.

Gauld stepped up and although David Bingham went the right way, the Scot’s penalty had the power to fly past him and the Whitecaps led 3-1 with half an hour to go, bringing the ‘Caps captain level with White on nine MLS goals for the season.

Portland pushed to reduce the deficit once more and Juan Mosquera brought a diving save from Yohei Takaoka in the 69th minute with low 20 yard effort. It was the ‘Caps keeper’s first save of the match and he seemed to dislocate his little finger in the process, which was quickly put back in to place for him to continue.

Veselinovic’s face blocked a fierce Evander shot as the match moved into the final 15 minutes, and while against looking in complete control, the Whitecaps threw the Timbers another lifeline with five minutes remaining.

Evander finished off a lovely passing move from Portland, burying a Sebastian Blanco cutback from eight yards out.

Sparked by their subs, the Timbers sensed blood and Takaoka had to keep out a Zac McGraw header moments later.

The Timbers tried to get the late leveller, but the ‘Caps held firm to come away with three points that saw them move up to 7th in the Western Conference standings, three points off third, but equally three points off 10th and out of the playoff places. That’s how tight the West is right now, with very little room for error. It was also a victory that saw the Whitecaps move into first place in the Cascadia Cup standings, with one game left to play against Seattle in October.

It wasn’t a flashy performance by Vancouver, but a solid one, with some great defensive responsibility throughout the team. Gauld looked back to his best after an off-week in his sub appearance against San Jose. The new guys look to have integrated well and the chemistry and understandings are building. And Ahmed added something special in the middle of the park. All in all a very well deserved three points.

When you look at the Whitecaps’ seven-game road spell, it’s a stretch that is bookended by very winnable matches in Portland and Colorado, with Toronto somewhere in the middle looking like another very possible three-point haul. You feel they need to take more than nine from the 21 available to get that top seven place they would prefer, but if they continue to put in away performances like this one, they should certainly be a playoff team come October. Next up is a two-game trip out east to take on Chicago on Wednesday and New York City next Saturday, two teams not altogether threatening in the Eastern Conference this season. Points are most certainly up for grabs in both.


FINAL SCORE: Portland Timbers 2 – 3 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 22,674

13’ – VAN – Ryan Gauld (Brian White)
36’ – VAN – Brian White (Ryan Gauld)
53’ – POR – Felipe Mora (Dairon Asprilla)
60’ – VAN – Ryan Gauld (penalty kick)
85’ – POR – Evander (Sebastian Blanco)

Possession: POR 63.8% – VAN 36.2%
Shots: POR 17 – VAN 9
Shots on Goal: POR 5 – VAN 3
Saves: POR 0 – VAN 3
Fouls: POR 17 – VAN 11
Offsides: POR 0 – VAN 3
Corners: POR 6 – VAN 3

PORTLAND: David Bingham; Juan Mosquera, Miguel Araujo (Zac McGraw 83’), Dario Župarić, Claudio Bravo; Cristhian Paredes (Antony 79’), Diego Chará, Evander; Dairon Asprilla (Santiago Moreno 66’), Felipe Mora (Franck Boli 66’), Yimmi Chará (Sebastian Blanco 66’) [Substitutes not used: Aljaž Ivačič, Bryan Acosta, Eric Miller, Larrys Mabiala]

VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Javain Brown (Mathías Laborda 79’), Ranko Veselinović, Tristan Blackmon; Andrés Cubas; Richie Laryea (Pedro Vite 89’), Alessandro Schöpf (Sebastian Berhalter 79’), Ali Ahmed, Sam Adekugbe (Ryan Raposo 61’); Brian White, Ryan Gauld (Russell Teibert 89’) [Substitutes not used: Isaac Boehmer, Sergio Córdova, J.C. Ngando, Simon Becher]




On Ryan Gauld:

“He had a little bit of a problem at the beginning of the season. And when he started to go, he’s a machine that feeds himself. I think the last two months, you can put him in the same category of the MVP of the league. I think he was part of 20 goals in the last 15 games, between cup and everything [10 goals and 8 assists in his last 13 appearances in all competitions]. So his quality is outstanding. His commitment to the team is outstanding. And that’s the most important thing for us. It’s like the fact that he’s a DP, not only when he has the ball, but also when he doesn’t have the ball. He’s a DP in a way that he gets the information and he does everything that the team wants from him. We’re very happy that he is doing very well and today two goals and an assist. It’s hard to not be praising him. For sure he will be in the team of the week [for the seventh time this season], maybe he’s the player of the week.”

On the approach for the next few road games:

“You said that they are winnable games, and of course they are winnable, but they’re also very hard to win, so I think the approach is to play the guys that are ready to go. We are lucky to have 14, 15, 18, maybe 19 starters, I would say. So we will not think for the lineup in Chicago thinking about New York or thinking about the future. We need to approach game by game, and our task will be to assess on Monday who can be ready to go 100 percent Wednesday against Chicago and do maybe a kind of different game. Chicago play a little different than Portland, they have a more direct to their number nine and to the winger, so we’ll see which is the approach, but we’ll try to go there and win. The objective is to try to win every game. The standings are so close and so tight, that we are three points behind the third place and only three points ahead of the tenth place, so every game is a massive opportunity in order to get ahead in the standings, and that’s where we want to be.”

On doing well playing in Portland:

“What we do well is probably that, I love rivalries, and I love to come here and shut up the stadium at the end, and our supporters were massive, massive today, always singing and we felt them, and we felt a little like we were at BC Place. So we have another game close to home before the end of the season and I hope that even in Seattle there will be the same loud and winning the game, even in the stands, as against the Timbers. And talking tactically, I think the way we defend is very space oriented, and not giving to the man, so not leaving a lot of space for the Timbers to play. That’s the reason why we’ve had a good record against them, but everything starts with intensity, and last time when we came here we lost, and we lost because we weren’t intense enough. Today, I think from minute one, we showed who were in charge of it.”


On staying focused throughout the season, despite a slow start:

“You’ve just got to keep working hard, and, you know, I was aware that earlier on in the season I wasn’t up to the standards that I set for myself. And it’s frustrating, I wanted to be affecting the game, and getting on the ball as much as I can and doing things in the final third that I wasn’t doing at the start of the season. So to kind of have this form, get going again, it feels good for me and, and I feel like the team is in a good place. Not just myself, I think we’re all enjoying when we play how we played tonight, everyone’s enjoying that so hopefully there’s more of it.”

On being mentally prepared for this long away-game stretch:

“We’ve all just got to be prepared, you know, everyone’s been aware for a long time that we’ve got this stretch of games coming up, and its going be tough physically with all the travel, mainly being away from home for a longer time than we’re used to, but you know what, I think we’re only actually staying over in places twice, so we’re still going to be at home a lot. We’re just going to have to make sure that we’re all ready physically and mentally and ready to repeat the performances like the one from tonight.”


On Ryan Gauld:

“He shows the quality he has every time he steps on the pitch and that definitely showed through tonight… I think obviously players who are up front and in the attacking third sometimes go through stretches where things aren’t going their way, and I think he’s the ultimate professional. He knows his capability and what he brings to this team. Like I said, that definitely showed tonight and has been showing for a while now so we’re definitely going to try to keep him in a good mood as much as possible because that definitely helps us especially going into this stretch.”

On the match:

“First and foremost, a good win, especially coming here in a tough place like Portland. I think they got a little bit more possession and rhythm towards the end of the game and they brought a few players on with quality and started throwing everything they could forward. Obviously, every team in this league has good players and can create chances. So we made it hard on ourselves, but happy we fought through the seven extra minutes and got the result.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

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