ANALYSIS- The Vancouver Whitecaps extended their unbeaten run to eight games on Saturday night, as they just managed to squeeze a 3-2 win over Minnesota United at BC Place. With a flurry of chances and goals that put on a great show for the neutrals, here are our three takeaways from the Whitecaps’ victory.
Three Takeaways: Whitecaps Unbeaten Run Continues
#1: Brian White Breaks Scoring Drought
Brian White this season has been known as the “xG King” due to the number of chances he’s had to score goals but has been unable to do so. But against Minnesota, he managed to put some of that behind him with a very well-taken brace. His first goal was a fantastic counter-attack goal, as Andres Cubas, who was arguably the man of the match behind White, won the ball high up the pitch and put through a peach of a through ball for White to latch onto. The American striker then made no mistake as he nutmegged Dayne St.Clair with a calm finish, and sent the home fans into ecstasy.
His second nearly cost him his season. A corner kick was met by Ranko Veselinovic, who headed the ball across goal for White to tap in, but his tap in was immediately met by a knee-to-knee collision with St. Clair. White was then treated and tried to come back on, but had to go off after realizing he could not continue. Thankfully, it was later revealed that he had a contusion in his upper leg, and that is was not as serious as initially thought.
The brace comes at a perfect time for White as his competition grew once again with the comeback of Sergio Cordova, who is returning after a lengthy hamstring injury and with Simon Becher on an impressive goals-per-minute form, White will want to maintain this form once he is back from his light injury.
Brian White gets a brace & reaches his 50th career goal milestone
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 7, 2023
#2: Relief For Ryan Gauld
One man who was likely as happy as White on the night was Ryan Gauld. The Scottish midfield maestro has had a bit of a tepid season so far in 2023. He had not recorded a goal or an assist in 736 MLS minutes this season before flicking it on for Simon Becher to put the Whitecaps 3-1 on the night. That assist will come as a relief for the playmaker, as he has seemed off so far this season. He had only created two big chances so far this season, and had an xA (expected assist) of 2.08 according to American Soccer Analysis. If you compare it to Julian Gressel, Gressel has 11 big chances created and an xA of 3.81 this season.
But its not just the stats the point to his struggles this season. You could have just told by simply looking at him play that we wasn’t at his mercurial best. He was losing possession often, messing up on his touches and making some wayward passes at times. Even in the first half of this game, he look laboured and his face told it all. But once the goals started going in, he looked back to his lively best, and made that audacious little chip pass that fed Becher his goal.
Its that kind of magic that Whitecaps fans will be hoping to see more often from the little magician, as, on his day, he is the most talented player on that pitch, and can provide that little bit of magic to turn the game on its head.
What a second half for the Vancouver Whitecaps! #VANvMIN
What a chip pass from Ryan Gauld!
— Canadian Soccer Daily (@CANSoccerDaily) May 7, 2023
#3: Finally Some Goals, But At What Cost
Before the match, the Whitecaps were on course to break a franchise record. The Whitecaps had gone 410 minutes without conceding a goal in MLS play, and needed only to go another 17 minute to break their single-season record. As fate would have it, Brian White’s first goal came right on the 17-minute, meaning that the crowd had two occasions to celebrate. But that record would only survive for another 16 minutes as former Whitecap Michael Boxall turned in a goal from a set-piece that was spilled by Yohei Takaoka. Then in the 65-minute, after the Whitecaps went up 3-1 on the night, Minnesota got their second after some poor positioning from the midfield and defence allowed Sang-Bin Jung to drive inside and finish past Takoaka.
That set up a nervy finish where both the Whitecaps and Minnesota could have had two or three goals a piece, if not for some last ditch defending and some inopportune slips on the turf pitch. The Whitecaps were being exposed in a way that had not been seen since the early days of this season, as they conceded two for the first time since the away match to San Jose in Matchday Two. Head Coach Vanni Sartini had mentioned that he wanted his side to be able to attack and score goals while still maintaining their defensive structure, but it looked like today they sacrificed some of the defence to get the attack going.
Whitecaps have a tough month ahead in the league, facing a bunch of Western conference rivals that are above them in the league, and will need to try to find a way to balance the attack and the defense so they can keep their matches a touch less dramatic for the Caps fans.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 7, 2023
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports on May 6, 2023, of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC Headshot.
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