Report and Reaction: Gauld leads from the front as ‘Caps captain’s double steadies the ship and sinks KC

Report and Reaction: Gauld leads from the front as ‘Caps captain’s double steadies the ship and sinks KC

Vancouver Whitecaps steadied the ship somewhat, with a very important three points in a 2-1 win at Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday evening, as their nine matches in 29 days spell is thankfully coming to an end and the players get a very welcome two week break.

A goal in each half from Ryan Gauld did the damage, in a game peppered with poor defensive displays on all three goals. Marinos Tzionis pulled one back for the home side in stoppage time to set up a more nervy final few minutes than it needed to be, but this was exactly the result, if not the performance, that the Whitecaps were badly needing.

Vanni Sartini made five changes to his starting line-up from the side that lost to a very understrength Miami side on Saturday. The ‘Caps coach also went with a change of formation, choosing to go with a 3-5-2 set up. His counterpart Peter Vermes also went heavy with the rotation, making a staggering eight chances, with some unusual personnel choices such as Khiry Shelton at right back in his first start since September last year.

This was a match between two teams very much out of form. Vancouver headed to KC winless in six straight league games, with three draws, three losses and no goals from open play in the last five matches. KC were coming into this on the back of an eight match winless run and five straight defeats. It had all the makings of a disappointing goalless affair, although KC had conceded in every game this season, so there was that hope!

The Whitecaps had the first real chance of the match in the 13th minute when Gauld sent the ball in across goal, coming to Ryan Raposo at the back of the box, but his shot went into the side netting from a tight angle.

Yohei Takaoka had to come up with an excellent instinctive save two minutes later, turning away a Shelton header, who had risen above the Whitecaps defence to get onto a Felipe Hernandez free kick.

The ‘Caps responded with a looping header from Brian White that landed on top of the KC net in the 18th minute.

Hernandez had a shot blocked by Sebastian Berhalter in the 21st minute, with Dany Rosero heading the subsequent corner narrowly wide, before KC’s William Agada saw his header easily saved by Takaoka six minutes later.

With the match looking like heading into half time scoreless, the Whitecaps opened the scoring in the 39th minute, somewhat against the run of play.

Ali Ahmed sent a long throw in from the right into the box. KC failed to clear the danger and the ball broke to Gauld. His first shot was blocked, but he immediately picked up the rebound, found some space, and fired home past John Pulskamp to give Vancouver the lead.

It was the Whitecaps first shot on goal of the match and their first MLS goal from open play in 564 minutes, since Brian White’s record-setting goal at New York Red Bulls on April 27th.

And that was it for the first half, not a classic, but Vancouver headed in with a much-needed lead as their good road form continued.

Any expectations that the second half was going to open up and be an entertaining affair were very misplaced, with neither side able to carve out any goalscoring opportunities.

In the end, the killer second goal from Vancouver was actually set up by their opponents with eight minutes of the match remaining.

Tim Leibold had the ball in the middle of his own half and with no-one around him, inexplicably played the ball back without looking. Gauld was there to pick off the pass and ran in on goal to tuck it away past Pulskamp to surely put the game to bed.

Whitecaps sub Levonte Johnson was played in on goal but pulled his shot wide, but the flag went up for offside anyway.

KC then went up the pitch and pulled one back in the second minute of stoppage time when Shelton waltzed his way through four Whitecaps players, playing the ball inside to Tzionis, who fired home.

That set up a nervy finale, but the Whitecaps easily saw out the remaining time and the good ship Vancouver was finally steadied with an important three points.

It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done. Two shots on target, two goals. That’s efficient, but equally concerning at the lack of productive output.

The Whitecaps have one game to go on this very busy part of the season. Colorado come-a-calling on Saturday. With the ‘Caps home form and the current tightness of the Western Conference standings, this feels like it’s going to be a tough test, but it’s one Vancouver need to take all three points from.

FINAL SCORE: Sporting Kansas City 1 – 2 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 17,046

39’ – VAN – Ryan Gauld
82’ – VAN – Ryan Gauld
90’+2 – SKC – Marinos Tzionis (Khiry Shelton)

Possession: SKC 61.5% – VAN 38.5%
Shots: SKC 10 – VAN 13
Shots on Goal: SKC 5 – VAN 2
Saves: SKC 0 – VAN 4
Fouls: SKC 9 – VAN 11
Offsides: SKC 2 – VAN 3
Corners: SKC 4 – VAN 4

6’ – VAN – Bjørn Inge Utvik
42’ – SKC – Khiry Shelton
75’ – SKC – Robert Castellanos

KANSAS CITY: John Pulskamp; Khiry Shelton, Robert Castellanos, Dany Rosero, Zorhan Bassong (Tim Leibold 57’); Jacob Davis (Marinos Tzionis 79’), Nemanja Radoja, Felipe Hernández; Alenis Vargas (Johnny Russell 57’), William Agada (Alan Pulido 57’), Stephen Afrifa (Dániel Sallói 46′) [Substitutes not used: Tim Melia, Andreu Fontàs, Robert Voloder, Chris Rindov]

VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Javain Brown, Ranko Veselinović, Bjørn Inge Utvik; Ryan Raposo (Ali Ahmed 70’), Sebastian Berhalter, Andrés Cubas, Alessandro Schöpf (Giuseppe Bovalina 90’), Luís Martins (Mathías Laborda 77’); Brian White (Fafà Picault 70’), Ryan Gauld ( Levonte Johnson 90’) [Substitutes not used: Isaac Boehmer, Tristan Blackmon, Damir Kreilach, Pedro Vite]




On recent form and earning an important win:

“[We] could have been a little bit shaken in our convincement, even the players. We came here and we did a very good performance. I would say a Whitecaps trademark performance with great organization defensively, good transition, very good in offensive set plays. To be perfect, some crossing could have been better because we had a lot of opportunities to score even more goals. I’m really happy that we did a fantastic job and we got three points.”

On changes:

“We worked a lot on how we had to defend and press with the midfield, and I think that we did fantastically. The two wingbacks and the two number eights were very good, and having those four guys allowed Andres [Cubas] to be even more aggressive. If we’re able to not get broken immediately, the distance can become compact when they try to play the player in the middle and Andres can go there and be the ball stealer that he is, like the Glove who played for the Seattle Supersonics. That was the best thing. The other thing was to be very intentional when we had the ball and attacking. I think the quality of crossing could have been a little better, but we went to those areas that we want to play the ball and to populate the box.”


On the win:

“You could say that we’ve needed it for a couple of weeks now. Everyone’s buzzing to finally put an end to that bad run we were on. Getting three points away from home is huge for us. Everyone’s buzzing now for Saturday.”

On the switch to play up front:

“I think it let me play closer to Brian [White] further up, and kind of stretch the pitch a little bit, let the boys in the middle get a little bit more space. It think it got to the time where we needed it a little bit freshened up and to change a little tweak here or there, and thankfully it worked out.”



Thoughts on the first half:

“I think, other than the goal that they scored, those guys played very well. We created a great amount of chances in that first half. Other than the goal on the throw-in, outside of that the guys were very good. They really were. Sometimes you think something’s going to come. You can feel a goal coming with the number of chances and just the situations we were in around the box and the way we were. We were very good. But some of those guys also ran out of steam, unfortunately, because they’re not playing 90 minutes on a regular basis. But they did a really good job throughout the game, I thought (Robert) Castellanos was very good at central defense. I think, through the run of play, we really didn’t give up all that much to be honest with you. The second goal is a mistake obviously. You saw what happened. But through the run of play, I thought the back four, for not playing together, I thought they did a really good job in a lot of situations. They were good when the ball was being crossed into the box. They cleared a lot of balls. It’s the same thing if you just kind of switch the two situations. Look at how many times we got in their box and how many chances we got. I didn’t see the same on their side. They get the corner and then obviously we made the big mistake.”

Thoughts on the second half:

“Obviously they’re staying back a little bit and they’re packing it in at this moment because they’re winning. At that moment, you have to be a little bit more direct. We needed to be because they were playing more like a 5-4-1 if you will and at times a 5-5-0 the way they were lining up. So you have got to play balls over the top and you have to also play for second balls. It didn’t happen at times. If you look at the goal, we were very direct in that situation. When Khiry (Shelton) got it and just went, it changes the game because you put people under pressure when you go direct.”

On the urgency after going down a goal:

“I would like to have gotten back into the game with them, getting one, two, maybe three (goals). But I don’t think we created enough chances with those guys in the game.”

On turning things around:

“It sounds good, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the first goal shouldn’t happen. It’s a routine play for me. What do you want me to do about the second goal at this point? I can’t do anything. It’s a bad mistake and I’m going to stand behind him because obviously he doesn’t want to make that pass. Maybe he didn’t see or whatever the case is. We’re trying to find a way back in the game. I’m very pleased with the way the first group came out. They had great energy. It’s just a shame they didn’t get a goal.”

On where the team is:

“Not good. I’m not sure I understand the question. We’re last place in our division so we’re not in a good spot. But we also need some guys now. We’re missing midfielders big time. They have got to get healthy and we have got to keep fighting.”

On if he’s seeing signs of a turnaround:

“It’s not like there’s no effort because there’s definitely an effort for sure. And like I said, I think the guys played very well in the first half. We have just got to cut down these mistakes. That’s the biggest thing because I think that we have a good group. I just think we have got to cut down the mistakes and something has got to turn our way. When it does, you usually get on that wave and you start riding it.”

On the weight of the losing streak:

“I would never say that it’s one thing, but I would say everything has an impact at that time. You always lose confidence. A goal goes in and then you’re like (exasperated). I mean, I played on teams like that and I’ve coached teams like that. But, at some point, it’s always the same. You have to get yourself out of that. You have to fight. You have to keep fighting.”

On his message to fans:

“I understand. I get it. We’re not getting results. You can play bad and win and nobody cares. But right now, we’re not getting the results. So I understand the frustration. Believe me, I would say that nobody has it more than me because, at the end of the day, I’m the guy. All I know is I’ll keep coming every day and keep trying to get it better. That’s it.”

On his message to Khiry Shelton:

“I knew he was tired. He hasn’t played a 90-minute match for quite a while but I thought he put a great shift in. I thought he played very well for a guy that has not played that position really at all in his career except for a few spots last year and this year. He did a really good job. I knew he was winded. He was winded, no doubt. I was telling him, ‘Listen, don’t defend. Just get forward now because we have got to get back in the game. If they score another one, it doesn’t matter. We have got to try to tie up.’ Him getting up the field, I knew he was tired but he fought through it. He doesn’t get the credit sometimes that he deserves and he definitely deserves some credit because he played very well tonight.”

On the summer transfer window:

“I think it’s very evident. You guys all know we have a Designated Player spot open. So I’m constantly asking and I’m hoping that we’re going to be able to get something and secure something here in the summertime. That’s the best I can tell you.”

On the front three finding their form:

“In the beginning of the season, I actually thought that we were flying. Johnny (Russell) was injured for a little while there. I think we were trying to, based on the personnel we had available because we had to take (Erik) Thommy out of the midfield and put him at the wing which he did a really good job at, we really wanted Thommy in the middle because we need to play somebody who has some playmaking ability there and Thommy brings that. He also has a little bit of a directness to goal which puts people under pressure. It’s kind of like the goal that we scored tonight in that when Khiry goes direct, it changes things. I don’t know. Is it lack of confidence? Lack of form? Games played when we’ve given up leads and again you lose confidence? Maybe it’s part of that as well. But obviously those guys need to get in form and in relationship to each other because, at the end of the day, they’re the guys that need to do it.”


On playing right back:

“It was different. I’ve been training there a little bit. It was new. I made some mistakes, but I felt like I did pretty well. On the first goal, I think I could have pushed up and tracked him. I was in between. I’ll take responsibility for that. I’m not happy with the result. We’re in this spot and we’ve got to pull ourselves out of it.”

On how to stop the slide:

“Not falling apart in terms of not putting your arm around the other guy’s shoulder next to you. I think once you lose that, it’s a wrap. But none of the guys have done that so far and we don’t plan on doing that. So we just take it day by day and look forward to the game this weekend. We go tomorrow and hit the books and see where we went wrong. It’s just habits. That’s another thing too. We have got to fix some habits. But once we do that, we’ve been here before so we can turn it around.”

On if this year’s slow start is different from last year:

“No, I feel like it’s the same feeling. We started off a bit better, but we’re at the bottom. Fans aren’t happy. Players, we’re not happy. So it’s the same. I think, with the same group that we had last year, we know and we have to stay together and we pull each other out.”

On playing at fullback:

“It’s different. I enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed it in training. At first, it was hard to kind of play that defensive role, because it’s not attacking all the time. You’re having to be disciplined on the back line and things like that. I enjoyed it.”


On playing the match as a midfielder:

“Midfield was the first position I played and obviously it’s not new. I didn’t feel uncomfortable, but it was just something that I haven’t done in a while. So it was nice to be back in there and I was just trying to do anything I can to help the team in that position.”

On preparing for Saturday’s match at Minnesota:

“From what I think, it’s just taking one game at a time and not trying to look back in the past and dwelling on what we’ve put ourselves into. It’s just focusing on one game at a time, and now we have Minnesota. Instead of putting our heads down and feeling sorry for ourselves, we should just go to the next game and come in with a lot of energy and focus on that game only, not about how this win can turn around the season. Everyone knows that now. Everyone knows that a win will do that, and a loss will only make it worse. So instead of bringing those thoughts into the game, it’s just going to the game and preparing like it’s just another game and we’re not in a hole. We’re just going to win a game and get a result.”

On whether Sporting can learn from its mid-season turnaround in 2023:

“Yeah, of course. I always try to be careful what I’m saying because this is my second year starting and being a part of this team. From what I’ve learned last year, all it takes is one win to really redefine your team and give your team a lot of confidence to believe that we can turn the season around. It was the same thing last year. We went to Seattle and won, and it’s one of the hardest places to go. Minnesota’s very good this year and we’re going away again. Anything can happen and if we get a result there, yeah, we can say that it might turn the season around. But we’ve got to go after Minnesota and get another result. So it’s just one game at a time. We can take a lot from last year, but again, my belief is just one game at a time and putting all of our energy into that and not anything else besides that.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

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