Vancouver Whitecaps earn dramatic 2-1 win over Houston

VANCOUVER — It wasn’t exactly how Vanni Sartini put it, but the Vancouver Whitecaps still captured three points in spectacular fashion on Friday.

The 2-1 win over the visiting Houston Dynamo is exactly the kind of result the Caps will need to secure a playoff spot, the head coach said.

“If we win the playoffs, it’s thanks to this victory,” Sartini said. “It’s a very important game. Because we go from zero to three points which allow us to stay the course.

The ‘Caps (8-10-6) entered the game shorthanded after an outbreak of COVID-19 forced six players to adhere to Major League Soccer health and safety protocols on Thursday.

The club finished the night two points under the Western Conference playoff mark with 10 games left in the regular season.

“The team has a lot of sacrifices. This team is ready to go the extra mile. And we don’t stop fighting until the last minute,” said Lucas Cavallini, who fended off the winning strike two minutes later. the start of additional time.

“It shows a lot of character and a great attitude from the players. And we must continue like this.

Fans were still filtering to their seats when Houston (7-13-4) opened the scoring in the sixth minute.

Vancouver denied the visitors from a corner, but Sam Junqua picked up the second ball and sent it from the top of the penalty area. Fafa Picault touched the net in front of the net, dribbling a shot into the bottom right corner past Whitecaps keeper Cody Cropper.

Vancouver struggled mightily in the first half, with Dynamo hemming them in their own end for long stretches – a problem that was compounded by frequent defensive lapses.

Houston controlled 63.5 percent of ball possession in the first 45 minutes. They outshot the home side 6-4 and 2-1 in the chances on target.

Vancouver looked close to equalizing in the 43rd minute when Julian Gressel fired a clean cross into the box where Tosaint Ricketts slid towards the net. The Canadian’s outstretched foot narrowly missed the ball and the ‘Caps went in at halftime 1-0.

Sartini looked to inject offense into his lineup in the 56th minute, calling on Cavallini for midfielder Pedro Vite and swapping Michael Baldismo for Leonard Owusu in the middle of the park.

The move almost paid off three minutes later when Ryan Gauld put the ball on Cavallini’s foot and he navigated a shot wide of the post.

While the substitutes drastically changed the game, Sartini admitted there were players on his bench who weren’t ready to play.

Midfielders Janio Bickel, Sebastian Berhalter and Alessandro Schopf were in the 18 for “emotional support”, he said.

“They wouldn’t have been available if we hadn’t had a lot of players,” the coach said.

Houston nearly doubled their lead in the 60th minute after Thorleifur Ulfarsson opened up the Caps defense and fired a strike from the middle of the box.

Cropper dove to stop, the initial shot coming off his outstretched hand, then hitting the post and rolling towards goal. He pounced on the loose ball moments before it crossed the line.

The goaltender made three saves for Vancouver on Friday. Houston’s Steve Clark stopped two of four shots on target.

The Whitecaps kept pushing late in the second half, but the frustration kicked in.

Cavallini was cautioned in the 78th minute for a bad foul and Gauld was shown the yellow card a minute later for a sliding tackle on Picault. Cavallini will be suspended from next week’s game due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

Simon Becher came off the bench for the ‘Caps in the 82nd minute, making his MLS debut. The 23-year-old striker got to work quickly, firing a right-footed shot into the net from the top of the penalty area in the 88th minute.

“It was just kind of being in the right place,” said Becher, who the Whitecaps took 16th place overall in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft. “Those are the positions you want to be in. The ball m came across it and it was just kind of a reaction, to be honest.”

Defender Ranko Veselinovic set up the winning strike in the 92nd minute, putting the ball at Cavallini’s foot inside the penalty area.

“I was like, ‘Slide! Slide! Slide!’ And he ended up giving me the ball,” Cavallini said. “I knew I was on my own and I turned around and just wanted to blow it into the net and end the game.

The Canadian forward is the Whitecaps’ leading scorer with eight goals this season.

Contributing to a crucial victory is an incredible feeling, he said.

“Words can’t describe it,” Cavallini said. “All of our sacrifices put into an end goal or a win like that, it’s a relief. And I think it was well deserved.”

The Whitecaps will hit the road next week, taking on the Galaxy in Los Angeles

NOTES: Whitecaps forward Brian White missed Friday’s game with a rib cage injury. … The ‘Caps signed Schopf, a 28-year-old Austrian, on Wednesday. … An announced crowd of 14,668 attended the match.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 5, 2022.

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