It may only be July but have no doubt about it, Vancouver Whitecaps are in must-win territory already when it comes to their home matches. Saturday’s stoppage time loss to Seattle heaped even more pressure on a ‘Caps side that has severely struggled on the road. With their next three league matches all at home before a daunting seven game road spell beckons, Wednesday night’s match at BC Place with Austin FC felt like a decisive moment of their season.
The ‘Caps were up for the challenge, coming away with what could prove to be a crucial 2-1 victory thanks to a first minute goal from Pedro Vite and a first goal in Vancouver colours for Sergio Cordova to secure the three points in the 72nd minute. Austin battled hard in an entertaining end-to-end encounter and Rodney Redes got them back level two minutes into the second half before the ‘Caps got the all important winner and could have had more in the end.
Vanni Sartini made three changes to the side that lost to the Sounders at the weekend, reverting back to the 3-1-4-2 formation that worked so well against LAFC, only this time with Gauld up front and Levonte Johnson in that wing back role.
The importance of the match was certainly not lost on anyone at the Whitecaps and they came out fast, taking the lead with just 29 seconds on the clock.
A long ball over the top was brought down well by Brian White. He looked up to see Vite streaking forward, crossing the ball inside to him, and the Ecuadorian did the rest, tucking it away through the legs of Austin ‘keeper Brad Stuver.
Man… this guy likes his quick goals eh? 😮💨 @Pedro_Vite45
🍎 Assisted by @_BrianWhite42
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) July 13, 2023
White had a great chance to add a second for the ‘Caps in the 12th minute when a ball found him at the back of the box but he couldn’t bring it down enough to get his shot on goal and blasted over from a good position.
Austin had two good looks on goal in the 28th minute. A ball over the top came to Ethan Finlay, whose shot on goal was parried away by Yohei Takaoka. The rebound came straight back to Finlay, who lofted it into the middle of the box for Sebastian Driussi, but the Argentine DP headed narrowly over.
Aside from a couple of half chances for both sides, that was pretty much it for the first half action, but the second half went off with a bang, and Austin got themselves back on level terms within two minutes of the restart.
Takaoka failed to deal with a cross into the box under pressure from Owen Wolff on the deck. The ball spilled into the path of half time sub Redes, who blasted the equaliser high into the net.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 13, 2023
The Whitecaps nearly got their lead back immediately when White met a Ryan Gauld corner but flashed his header narrowly wide.
Johnson had a shot from the edge of the box in the 57th minute but couldn’t get the curl or the angle on it for the ‘Caps, with Driussi having a close range header not miss by much in reply, as the action flowed from end to end.
The ‘Caps had a great chance to retake the lead in the 65th minute when a Vite pass sprung Gauld, who hit the byeline and sent an inviting ball across goal that White just couldn’t get onto the end of.
The home side weren’t to be denied though and they went back into the lead in the 72nd minute with a goal that brought a lot of relief to the ‘Caps all round.
Gauld sent a brilliant through ball into the path of Cordova. The big Venezuelan striker bore down on goal, cut inside, then hesitated when the shot was on, cutting inside again to make more room and finishing with aplomb.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 13, 2023
That hesitation will have had Whitecaps supporters’ hearts in their mouth, worrying if the pressure of not scoring had made the striker freeze, but the cool head and composure he showed to finish was excellent and what a massive goal it was, for both club and player. The goal proved to be the match winner and saw Cordova break his Whitecaps scoring duck at the 15th attempt. The big question now is will he go on a tear now the huge pressure on his shoulders has been lifted?
For Gauld, that assist saw the Scot tie Pedro Morales for the team record of 26 during the MLS era, a figure you expect to be broken very, very soon.
White came close to grabbing an insurance goal for the Whitecaps with nine minutes remaining, but again his header of a Sebastian Berhalter cross flashed just past the post and he had an even better chance four minutes later, failing to direct a bullet Ryan Raposo cross towards goal from a couple of yards out.
Vancouver were comfortable in the nine minutes of stoppage time added on before another hearts in the mouth moment in the dying seconds of the match as a Tristan Blackmon pull back on the edge of the box saw a video review for a penalty, but the tackle was clearly outside of the box, the subsequent free kick wasted, and the ‘Caps had the much needed victory.
It was a deserved three points for Vancouver, with the only real down point being the inability to carve out a win by a bigger margin with the chances they created and squandered.
The Whitecaps remain in 9th in the West after the win, a point above the playoff line, but equally a point off 6th. A defeat would have seen them fall out of the playoff places to 11th. Their margin for error is slim and with three points dropped on Saturday they needed nine from their next three games at BC Place. That’s the first three on the board. The Galaxy are up next. Another three are a must.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 1 Austin FC
1’ – VAN – Pedro Vite (Brian White, Andres Cubas)
47’ – ATX – Rodney Redes
72’ – VAN – Sergio Córdova (Ryan Gauld)
Possession: VAN 46.1 – ATX 53.9
Shots: VAN 14 – ATX 8
Shots on Goal: VAN 4 – ATX 2
Saves: VAN 1 – ATX 2
Fouls: VAN 10 – ATX 13
Offsides: VAN 0 – ATX 2
Corners: VAN 7 – ATX 3
VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Tristan Blackmon, Ranko Veselinović, Luís Martins; Andrés Cubas; Sebastian Berhalter, Alessandro Schöpf (Sergio Córdova 70’), Pedro Vite (J.C. Ngando 87’), Levonte Johnson (Ryan Raposo 58’); Brian White, Ryan Gauld (Déiber Caicedo 87’) [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Karifa Yao, Simon Becher, Russell Teibert, Matteo Campagna]
AUSTIN: Brad Stuver; Nick Lima, Julio Cascante, Kip Keller, Jon Gallagher; Owen Wolf, Jhojan Valencia (Will Bruin 83’); Ethan Finley (Rodney Redes 45’), Sebastian Driussi (Sofiane Djeffal 66’), Diego Fagundez (Emiliano Rigoni 45’ (Adam Lundkvist 75’)); Max Urruti [Substitutes not used: Gyasi Zardes, Hector Jimenez, Matt Bersano, Brandan Craig]
On the match:
“We talked with the team that we had to bounce back in terms of result and in terms of being better in some moments. But the game against Seattle actually was good, so we had to build on that game, and I think we did, playing very well tonight against a very good team, and deserving the win”
On scoring in the first 30 seconds again:
“Very good. Like we always pride ourselves to the start the game, I think it’s the third or fourth goal that we score within the first minute of the game and we work a lot, we work a lot on how the other team start not only on our kickoff but on the opposition kickoff in order to be ready. And it came out perfectly another time like it did against Houston. Maybe it’s a Texan thing.”
On difference in playing in MLS:
“Just the pace of the game. It’s a bit different from MLS NEXT Pro, but I’m getting used to it. I feel like I’ve done pretty well the times I’ve played and just getting used to the level of the team and new teammates. But I’ve been with them from the preseason, and then back to MLS NEXT Pro. But now that I’m back, I’m kind of getting used to it again.”
On the match:
“It was a good win. It was my first MLS win with the club, so it’s always good times. You know, it was a hard fought win, especially when it was nine minutes of added time. And you know, we have to grind it out and get that win.”
On playing as a wingback:
“As long as I have a chance to be on the field, I’ll try to adapt to any position possible and try to be the best I can at that position. Fullback is a bit of a new position for me, but I still get to attack as well, so I’m not too mad about it. It’s just the defending side of the ball that I’m kind of getting used to the most.”
On what gives him his confidence:
“Just kind of growing up I was taught to always be confident in yourself and go out there. You know a lot of the guys they told me go out there, do your thing, if you make mistakes it’s okay everybody makes mistakes. So it’s kind of just from the guys, from within myself, from my dad, my parents back home, just telling me to go out and do my best, play the best I can. Because if I don’t, I’m going to regret it and at the end of the day, it kind of hinders the team if I’m out there playing shy and kind of held back.”
SERGIO CORDOVA (translated from Spanish)
On scoring his first goal:
“I feel good. I feel happy to be able to give the team the three points today. From a personal point of view, its something that makes me very happy, its something I have been working on for many weeks, to get that goal. It’s a weight off my shoulders, and I think it’s a new start for me. I am very, very happy, and I hope it’s the beginning of a good run for me and for the team.”
On his teammate’s support during this tough start:
“I think, part of the goal is obviously mine, but also part of that goal is the team’s. They’ve known that, with some of the situations I’ve been through since I got there, it hasn’t been the start I wanted, I think they knew it as well as me. They have been a great support for me, motivating me in every training to keep working harder, to bolster myself. I am very grateful for the support that I have had with everyone since I have arrived in Vancouver. It’s an important part of this first goal.”