Brian White’s 74th minute winner made it six points from six at home to start off the month of April for Vancouver Whitecaps, whose 1-0 victory over Cascadian rivals Portland Timbers at BC Place on Saturday night saw them extend their unbeaten run to five matches in MLS.
For the second straight week the ‘Caps not only kept a clean sheet, but also kept their opponents from having any shots on goal, as Vancouver put in an assured and dominant display that saw them have two goals chalked off before the breakthrough finally came.
Needing to bounce back from Wednesday night’s disappointing outing against LAFC in the CONCACAF Champions League, Vanni Sartini made five changes with the dynamic duo of Simon Becher and Ali Ahmed returning to the starting lineup after their goalscoring and assisting exploits last weekend against Montreal.
Vancouver came out fast and strong for this one, creating a couple of early chances in the opening minutes.
Pedro Vite saw a fierce blast from the edge of the box tipped over by Aljaz Ivacic in the 4th minute, before the Slovenian denied the ‘Caps again with a save from a Mathias Laborda back post header.
Laborda had another header in the 23rd minute, after some good build up play by Vancouver, but couldn’t direct it on target and it was high and over.
Ranko Veselinovic had the ball in the net for the Whitecaps on the half hour mark, but the flag was up for offside after he showed some nice footwork in the box to pick up a rebound and dance around Ivacic.
Eric Miller got a key block in on an Ahmed shot in the 37th minute as the ‘Caps kept pressing for the opener, but the Timbers were holding firm, albeit not offer much offensive play in return.
That was all she wrote for the half in terms of talking points, but the second half started with a major one when Veselinovic had the ball in the net for a second time on the evening in the 51st minute, powerfully heading home a Ryan Gauld corner, only for the goal to be ruled out for a push on his jump.
The ‘Caps continued to press for the breakthrough and Julian Gressel had a fierce strike tipped over by Ivacic in the 58th minute and then with an acrobatic save in the 72nd.
It was starting to look like the breakthrough simply wasn’t going to come, but it did two minutes later.
Ivacic could only parry a fierce Gauld shot. Gressel pounced on the loose ball and with his first shot blocked he kept on it like a dog with a bone, to send a bullet ball across goal with White on hand two yards out to direct it home. Finally Vancouver had the lead and despite another video review, this time it counted!
Breakthrough for #VWFC 👊
Julian Gressel finds Brian White for the opener. pic.twitter.com/A2eLjjRwNT
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 9, 2023
All the good work was nearly undone in the 80th minute when Justin Rasmussen sent a dangerous ball to the back post but the Whitecaps breathed a sigh of relief when Juan Mosquera blasted over.
That was to be the only remaining scare for Vancouver, who comfortably saw out the remaining time to see off a battling, but uninspiring Portland side.
Deiber Caicedo nearly put the icing on the victory cake six minutes into stoppage time, but Ivacic proved the Whitecaps denier again with the save.
A first derby win of the season and more importantly the full six points targeted from their back-to-back home league matches. With a trip to a struggling Austin side followed by a bye week, the Whitecaps are looking a lot better by the end of April that many would have thought.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 – 0 Portland Timbers
74’ – VAN – Brian White (Julian Gressel)
Possession: VAN 57.6% – POR 42.4%
Shots: VAN 13 – POR 2
Shots on Goal: VAN 9 – POR 0
Saves: VAN 0 – POR 8
Fouls: VAN 20 – POR 14
Offsides: VAN 4 – POR 0
Corners: VAN 12 – POR 1
VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Mathías Laborda, Ranko Veselinović, Tristan Blackmon, Luís Martins (Javain Brown 82’); Julian Gressel, Andrés Cubas (Sebastian Berhalter 29’), Ali Ahmed (Déiber Caicedo 82’); Pedro Vite (Cristian Dájome 82’), Ryan Gauld; Simon Becher (Brian White 66’) [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, J.C. Ngando, Ryan Raposo, Russell Teibert]
PORTLAND: Aljaz Ivacic; Eric Miller, Dario Zuparic, Zac McGraw, Justin Rasmussen; Santiago Moreno (David Ayala 77), Diego Chara, Diego Gutiérrez (Evander 46′); Juan Mosquera (Nathan Fogaça 81’), Tega Ikoba (Jaroslaw Niezgoda 46′), Dairon Asprilla (Franck Boli 66’) [Substitutes not used: Hunter Sulte, Claudio Bravo, Pablo Bonilla, Larrys Mabiala]
On keys to the win:
“The key is that we have a very good team. We had the ball much more than them, we had a lot of chances. I was a little bit angry at the end of the first half, because I thought that in the first half we were a little bit cocky with the ball, trying to do something beautiful in space and similar stuff getting inefficient. I think that the result is a liar, there’s more goals between us and them.Yeah, I’m happy that we won. But again, if you don’t score the goal that you need to score, at the end they had a big chance they could have tied, 1-1… so it’s a reminder for us that it’s good to play well, but when we go at them we need to go.”
On Brian White’s performances so far this season:
“I think he didn’t have a slow start. I think he had a good start. But he just didn’t score but he was, I would say, instrumental to the fact that the team was creating chances and being in the right position at the right moment. I think that Brian did very well and I’m very happy that I think Ryan [Gauld] did his best performance of the season.”
On his assist:
“I think it was a play down the left side, as I’ve done before, I try and get into the box late, and know that I can maybe get on the end of either cross or a shot like I scored last week and this time it was a shot again and deflection again. It was a bit too wide, obviously a good save by the keeper and then yeah, just trying to hit it across with Brian standing in the middle of the goal, trying to hit it across and the defender blocks it. The second one is honestly me just trying to shoot as hard as I can across the goal and then hoping that either deflection from the defender happens or Brian [White] stands right there and you know, just needs to put his belly out and then dink it in. So yeah, it worked out exactly like I wanted to. I think, good things happen when you shoot the ball across like that, and it did in that moment.”
On if the mentality changes as the match nears its end:
“No, I think not necessarily. I think you obviously know as the game goes on every play becomes more and more crucial because there’s less and less time left. But in terms of our mindset, I thought we played really well in the first half, could have been more intentional, could have been more direct at times, to create a bit more danger. But in the second half, I thought we kind of started where we left off in the first and continued to just kind of keep at it, keep at it and then again, one of those chances will have to fall eventually that’s what you have to believe and that’s why you have to keep going, and today it did. Today we were able to keep them away from our goal. Easy day for Yohei [Takaoka], good day obviously up front, in terms of scoring one goal and if you keep a shutout, one goal is enough.”
On what it means winning a rivalry match against Portland:
“It’s important, any time you can have the upper edge on your neighbours or on your rivals, it’s important for the club, it’s important for the fans. So yeah, it’s an important three points in the standings, three points for the Cascadia Cup and just looking forward to the next game in LA.”
On keeping the momentum following the match:
“Yeah, obviously you want to keep scoring every game to help the team win every game. But for me, it’s about focusing on the performance, focusing on what I can do to help the team win. If it’s goals, great. I’d be happy to score goals for the team, it’s what I want to do. But more importantly to put my best foot out there, perform well, help the team win games in any way I can.”