Report and Reaction: All sizzle and no steak for Whitecaps versus Texans in front of record setting crowd

Report and Reaction: All sizzle and no steak for Whitecaps versus Texans in front of record setting crowd

Over 32,000 in the stands, a special 50th anniversary game with 110 alumni in attendance, what could possibly go wrong? Well, something that didn’t exist 50 years ago, video review, certainly played a part in the evening’s disappointing proceedings, as did Vancouver Whitecaps’ failure to turn their dominance into any goals as they played out a 0-0 stalemate with Austin FC at BC Place on Saturday night in front of a record-setting crowd for the club in their MLS era.

The Whitecaps had 62% possession, outshot the visitors 23 to 4, and Yohei Takaoka could have brought a book with him to read in the second half, but Vancouver couldn’t convert any of that into goals, or at least none that counted. Gauld had the ball in the net in the 19th minute, but a video review saw it chopped off for a dubious Picault handball in the build-up. VAR frustrated Vancouver again in first half injury time when Picault went down in the box and despite the referee being called over for a clear and obvious error, he stuck to his guns and no penalty was awarded.

The Whitecaps huffed and puffed plenty in the second half, but Brad Stuver stood tall in the Austin goal, and while a point going into this one against one of the most in-form teams in MLS might have been considered a good result, the nature of the visitor’s performance saw this very much as two points dropped rather than one gained.

Vanni Sartini made four changes to the starting line-up from the team that battled to a point in New York last weekend, with Bjorn Inge Utvik, Alessandro Schopf, Andres Cubas, and Fafa Picault all coming in.

The first chance of the match fell to Austin 10 minutes in, with Takaoka turning away a Diego Rubio shot to his near post. It was the only save he needed to make all game.

Fafa Picault saw his header tipped over the bar by Brad Stuver in the 15th minute as the ‘Caps turned up the pressure and minutes later Ali Ahmed nearly got onto a cross to the back post, but the ball just eluded him.

The Whitecaps thought they had opened the scoring in the 19th minute after some great interplay between Sam Adekugbe and Ryan Gauld. Gauld cut out a pass at the halfway line and played the ball inside to Gauld. The Scot played it back out to Adekugbe then ran into the box to flick on the subsequent cross. The ball ricocheted off Picault and an Austin defender, coming back to Gauld who fired a low one past Stuver.

But the BC Place celebrations were cut short when video review felt the ball had come off Picault’s hand. Referee Marcos DeOliveira II (is the first one better? can we get him next time?) went over to look at replays and felt there was enough in what he saw to chop the goal off.

Picault got onto a corner in the 33rd minute, but his deflected shot was easily held by Stuver.

The Whitecaps were dominating play, with Austin showing very little attacking threat after their early forays forward.

Gauld saw a low 20-yarder tipped around the post by Stuver in the 36th minute then Adekugbe fired a shot over moments later. Unfortunately for the Canadian international, the shot, and the challenge into him as he took it, saw him go off with what initially looked like an aggravation of his knee injury, but was subsequently reported as his left calf.

With the game deep in stoppage time, Picault was bundled over in the box by ALex Ring. The Whitecaps felt it was a penalty, but there was no call on the pitch. The VAR official felt the same, calling the referee over for review. Unfortunately for the ‘Caps, the referee stuck to his initial guns and a second VAR decision went against Picault.

There was still more drama to come before the teams headed down the tunnel, with Sebastian Driussi seemingly taking umbrage at something said from the Whitecaps bench and running over to get into it and start a stramash that earned the Austin DP a booking.

The second half started as the first one finished, with the Whitecaps on the front foot.

Stuver produced a fantastic double save to first deny Ryan Raposo with a one-handed stop and then Schopf with his leg in the 53rd minute. The flag subsequently went up on Raposo but it was two quality saves from one of the best keepers in all of MLS.

Picault came close to finally putting the Whitecaps ahead in the 58th minute when he got onto the end of a pin-perfect Raposo cross but his diving header went into the side netting.

Gauld had a curler that missed to the left after some nice interplay with Brian White in the 78th minute, but it was starting to feel that this was not going to be Vancouver’s night.

Utvik got his head to a curling Gauld cross in the 83rd minute but Stuver was quickly on the scene to palm the chance away.

With no more chances, the game fizzled out to a disappointing draw.

To have that much dominance without scoring and getting the win is concerning. As is another big crowd going home disappointed. The lack of squad depth was also highlighted in this one. When you looked at the bench, the amount of actual game changers at Vanni’s disposal was few and far between.

Vanni mentioned postgame that every point is crucial and while that is very true in a tight MLS Western Conference, the continued dropping of points at home is just putting pressure on the team to keep performing as they have been on the road. Is that sustainable? Well I guess we’ll find out with three straight away matches coming up in league play and four in total when you factor in the Canadian Championship.

FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 0 – 0 Austin FC

ATT: 32,465

Possession: VAN 62.2% – ATX 37.8%
Shots: VAN 23 – ATX 4
Shots on Goal: VAN 7 – ATX 1
Saves: VAN 7 – ATX 1
Fouls: VAN 5 – ATX 10
Offsides: VAN 1 – ATX 1
Corners: VAN 10 – ATX 2

45’+8 – ATX – Guilherme Biro
45’+8 – VAN – Fafà Picault
46′ – ATX – Sebastián Driussi
46’ – VAN – Brian White

VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Bjørn Inge Utvik, Ranko Veselinović (Levonte Johnson 81’), Tristan Blackmon; Sam Adekugbe (Ryan Raposo 43’), Alessandro Schöpf (Pedro Vite 65’), Andrés Cubas, Ali Ahmed; Ryan Gauld, Brian White, Fafà Picault [Substitutes not used:
Isaac Boehmer, Mathías Laborda, Ralph Priso, Luís Martins, Sebastian Berhalter, Javain Brown]

AUSTIN: Brad Stuver; Jon Gallagher, Julio Cascante, Brendan Hines-Ike, Guilherme Biro; Alexander Ring, Jhojan Valencia (Žan Kolmanič 83’); Jáder Obrian (Owen Wolff 63’), Sebastián Driussi, Emiliano Rigoni (Ethan Finley 83’); Diego Rubio (Gyasi Zardes 75’)
[Substitutes not used: Stefan Cleveland, Matt Hedges, Leo Väisänen, Hector Jimenez, CJ Fodrey]




On whether the team needed to take more risks:

“I don’t think so because we had a lot of chances to score, and the Whitecaps of 2023 lose this game. Or the Whitecaps of three weeks ago against the Galaxy lose this game. I’m very proud of the fact that we kept the structure and we didn’t go crazy… We always kept our composure and the structure and we didn’t allow them [Austin] to have any dangerous moments against us. I told the guys, the second half I could have played in goal.”

On the atmosphere and club record crowd:

“It was beautiful. People behind my bench were offering me beer. What more could you say? It’s 32,000, it’s the record. Fortunately, it’s going to last only for two weeks, because it’ll be more than 50,000 [for the Inter Miami CF match]. Of course, everyone wanted to win, but no one left this stadium disappointed for the effort, disappointed for the quality of the team, disappointed of the show we put on. I think that in terms of commitment, in terms of way of playing, we actually honoured the 200 alumni that were here today, and the reason that we are here today. I’m just frustrated because we didn’t win, but again, if we continue to do it like this, guys, in the long run…don’t go on vacation in November, because you have to work.”


On his team’s performance tonight:

“A good performance, there’s not actually been that many games since I’ve been here that we’ve controlled a game like that. So from that side of it, it was a positive. We’ve just been missing the goal really, and on another night we could have won by three or four if we put our chances away. But we’re disappointed with the result. We would have loved to send everyone home happy. It was a great support tonight and just unfortunately we couldn’t get it done.”

On what the team needed on a game like tonight:

“I think we just need to take our chances, as simple as that. I’ve had the one on the edge that Brian laid off, and I had to score. We’ve had another couple really good chances. I think that our struggles in the past is when a team played with a low block, we really struggled to create anything and open them up. But I think at least tonight you see we had three of four really good chances,  and it starts with myself, I have to score that. In a certain way, we work on those a lot in training, those kind of finishes so I think it’s just as simple as taking our chances.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

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