Report and Reaction: Vancouver Whitecaps are playoff bound after big win over 1st placed St Louis

Report and Reaction: Vancouver Whitecaps are playoff bound after big win over 1st placed St Louis

Vancouver Whitecaps clinched their sixth playoff berth in their MLS era after a commanding 3-0 victory over Western Conference regular season champs St Louis City at BC Place on Wednesday evening.

The ‘Caps snapped a four-game winless run with a dominant performance from start to finish, but they had to wait until the second half for the floodgates to open when Brian White, Sebastian Berhalter, and Richie Laryea all found the back of the net to give Vancouver a much needed victory and three crucial points.

With a playoff place secured, it’s all about positioning and gaining some home field advantage for the Whitecaps now with two matches remaining, with the team still possible to finish anywhere from 2nd to 9th in the final standings.

Vanni Sartini kept with the 3-1-4-2 formation but made two personnel changes from the side that dropped two points in Saturday’s disappointing draw with DC United, with Ali Ahmed and Ryan Raposo coming into the starting line-up.

It was a first half of frustration for the ‘Caps, who dominated the play but failed to register a single shot on target. They also saw VAR deny them a penalty and disallow a Ryan Gauld goal.

The Whitecaps certainly came close to breaking the deadlock, with White having their first great chance nine minutes in, but his low curler just missed the far post.

Vancouver kept the pressure on and Javain Brown headed over a fantastic Ahmed cross in the 18th minute before the first moment of controversy in the first half came around in the 21st minute.

Josh Yaro looked to have gone straight through White in the St Louis box, sending the ‘Caps striker crashing to the deck. Canadian referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere waved away the Whitecaps appeals for a penalty but was called over for a video review. It took him over two minutes to review the play but the referee decided to stick with his original decision on the pitch and the game got back underway.

There was definitely debate over whether Yaro nicked the ball away first or White’s left ankle, so without a definitive angle it was hard, but perhaps harsh, not to overrule the initial call.

Gauld thought he’d finally given his side the lead in the 37th minute, volleying home after the ball came off of Yaro straight into his path in front of goal.

The ‘Caps celebrated but video review was called into action again and once again the decision went against Vancouver and the goal was disallowed, presumably because when the ball bounced off White and then hit Yaro, Gauld was in an offside position.

With everything going against Vancouver, the Ryan/Brian connection almost paid off once again seven minutes into stoppage time but White just failed to connect with Gauld’s cross to the far post and the teams headed into the break scoreless.

The Whitecaps continued to dominate the play in the second half but their night looked like it might be going from bad to worse when the influential Andres Cubas was forced off with an apparent shoulder or wrist injury in the 51st minute, being replaced by Berhalter.

Certainly worrying for the rest of the season, but Cubas’ absence thankfully wasn’t immediately felt and the ‘Caps finally found their breakthrough just before the hour mark.

Ranko Veselinovic cleared the ball up the pitch and as it came towards Yaro just inside his own half, the St Louis defender hesitated for a split second, allowing White to nip in, head the ball clear, and the American raced in on goal before deftly finishing past Ben Lundt.

The goal settled the ‘Caps and they looked for the killer second.

Despite their pressure they had to wait until the 82nd minute to get it, but it was certainly worth the wait.

The ‘Caps kept on St Louis in the second phase of a partly cleared attack, with the ball coming to Gauld inside the box, who laid it off to Berhalter, who curled a beauty into the bottom left corner from 20 yards out, beating Lundt all ends up.

With Minnesota getting hammered at LAFC, the goal looked set to not only secure the victory for Vancouver, but book that all important playoff place.

The ‘Caps sealed the deal in style though, adding a third and the icing on their playoff securing cake six minutes into the stoppage time when Sam Adekugbe cut the ball back to Laryea, who blasted the ball past Lundt from 16 yards out.

It was Laryea’s first goal as a Whitecap, which will hopefully settle the Canadian international a little bit after a couple of bad misses of late.

It was also the last action of the match and Vancouver celebrated mutedly at the final whistle. A big win and an achievement unlocked, but as Sartini pointed out in his postgame press conference, this only secures a playoff spot in the play-in game. They could still finish in the top four, guaranteeing home field advantage in the best of three first round, top seven, which would guarantee one home game in that series, or they could find themselves in the 8th versus 9th match-up every club wants to avoid.

A trip to Seattle, a week off, and then a home finale with LAFC now await the Whitecaps. An exciting end of the season is in store, with a lot to play for, and the way the Western Conference has played out this season, you can be sure there are several twists and turns that still lie ahead.

FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 3 – 0 St Louis City

ATT: 13,776

59’ – VAN – Brian White (Ranko Veselinović)
82’ – VAN – Sebastian Berhalter (Ryan Gauld)
90’+6 – VAN – Richie Laryea (Sam Adekugbe)

Possession: VAN 54.8% – STL 45.2%
Shots: VAN 19 – STL 6
Shots on Goal: VAN 7 – STL 2
Saves: VAN 2 – STL 4
Fouls: VAN 8 – STL 15
Offsides: VAN 1 – STL 3
Corners: VAN 9 – STL 2

VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Javain Brown (Mathías Laborda 86’), Ranko Veselinović, Tristan Blackmon; Andrés Cubas (Sebastian Berhalter 51’); Ryan Raposo (Sam Adekugbe 71’), Alessandro Schöpf (Pedro Vite 71’), Ali Ahmed, Richie Laryea; Brian White, Ryan Gauld (Junior Hoilett 86’) [Substitutes Not Used: Isaac Boehmer, J.C. Ngando, Simon Becher, Russell Teibert]

ST LOUIS: Ben Lundt; Jake Nerwinski, Tim Parker, Josh Yaro, Anthony Markanich; Josh Stroud (Indiana Vassilev 71’), Njabulo Blom (Célio Pompeu 79’), Eduard Löwen, Tomás Ostrák (Aziel Jackson 45’); Niko Gioacchini (Nokkvi Thórinsson 71’), Sam Adeniran (9.João Klauss 63’) [Substitutes not used: Roman Bürki, Akil Watts, Kyle Hiebert, Jonathan Bell]




On his team’s performance:

“For the game, more than anything, I’m feeling very good because we played a top game against a very good team. We have to be honest, they rested some key players at the beginning, but at the end, they were all playing except for Bürki. We played much better than them, so everything went through the game plan, and what we were supposed to do. And, better than most of the last few games, we didn’t make any silly mistakes defending, and that’s the change, that’s the difference. We always create, every game, a lot of chances. We always play very well. We always need a lot of chances to score, unfortunately, but at the end it paid off big time today, so I’m very happy.”

On Ryan Gauld being MVP of the season:

“I’ll answer like this: from June on, Ryan Gauld is by far the MVP of the league. No one can say something different because he’s a complete player. Maybe some other players they’re more flashy than Ryan, but no one is so important and so committed to what the team does, having the quality that he has. He is an example for everyone, the back-press that we are doing in the last few games, the way that he is helping the team and everything, it’s just fantastic. The thing is that the problem for him is when you show that you can do it for 10 games, and we expect him for 11 games, for 12 games, for 13 games, for 14 games, for 15 games, and so on. But, you know, if he can do things like this for the next couple of weeks again, I’ll be happy that you guys have to work in November instead of watching other games.”


On making the playoffs after this win:

“Obviously it’s good. At the start of the season that’s the minimum expectation for us, that’s what we all said. So, with how tight the league’s been, and especially with that little 3-4 game run that we were on, the bad run I mean, it’s good to finally have it guaranteed and now we can push on and look further up the table.”

On the difference between last game vs DC and this game vs St. Louis:

“It’s tough to pinpoint. We obviously knew the importance of tonight because we feel like Colorado’s a game that, going into it, we should have been coming away with three points, the same with DC. So tonight was a night that a draw wasn’t going to be good enough and, I think we kind of had some good moments in the first half, and then I think we were a bit disappointed to go in at half nil-nil. Then second half, we kind of took over the game and raised the intensity of it, and thankfully came away with a few goals.”


On the team’s attitude after clinching the playoffs:

“It’s good, but I think we’re still hungry. I think we want that top four to get that home playoff game. I think guys are excited, but also we want to keep going and keep pushing.”

On the team’s relief on the win after their four-game winless streak:

“I think the whole group feels like we deserve more these last four games. The clean sheet feels great, the three goals feels great. It’s less of a relief, it’s more of like okay, we know we can do this, okay we haven’t done it in the last four games, but we want to keep going and keep pushing.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

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