The Vancouver Whitecaps beat Austin FC 2-1 in a spirited comeback win on Saturday afternoon at BC Place. Here’s our match report from that one.
Despite it being a rainy day in Vancouver, the Vancouver Whitecaps kept the good times rolling on Saturday.
With their 2-1 win over Austin FC, the ‘Caps now have 4 straight wins in MLS play, and are undefeated in 13 of last 14 games, including their last 10 in a row, as they’ve continued to roll along as one of the hottest teams in MLS.
After a rough start to summer, they’ve looked unstoppable as of late, and that was no exception against Austin, where they overcame a slow start to roar back with a strong second-half comeback.
Down 1-0 at halftime, the ‘Caps made some adjustments in the 2nd half, and they’d pay off big for them, as they picked up 2 late goals en route to their eventual win.
Now, with that, that’s allowed them to hop back into a playoff spot, and although it’s not sure that they’ll finish Saturday night in one, as their fate there lies in other teams hands, if they keep playing as they have as of late, they’ll certainly carve out a spot above the playoff line for themselves in the coming weeks.
So while the ‘Caps won a game that they should’ve won against an Austin team on the opposite trendline, sliding down to the bottom of the Western Conference, it was still a massive victory, especially considering that they were without a half-dozen regulars due to international absences and injuries.
Returning to the start of the match, though, despite starting the game as the underdogs, though, Austin came out strong to start the game, getting the better of the Whitecaps to begin the match.
After a cagey start from both sides, Austin’s Jon Gallagher, a midfielder filling in at striker for the visitors, had a nice chance just inside of the box in the 24th minute, but his attempt would be nicely blocked by the ‘Caps Erik Godoy, who was making his return to the lineup after some time out with an injury.
Soon after, Sebastian Driussi then had the best chance of the half up to that point, as he found a pocket right at the edge of the ‘Caps 6-yard box, but his low shot would somehow deflect out for a corner. On the ensuing corner, Austin continued to threaten, but Tomas Pochettino couldn’t redirect his dangerous flick on goal, much to the relief of the ‘Caps.
So with that, it was no surprise to then see Driussi open the scoring right at the 45th minute, giving his team a boost heading into halftime. After some lovely footwork from Cecilio Dominguez at the edge of the box, he floated in a lovely ball, and Driussi made no mistake with his header, thumping home the chance to give his team a deserved lead.
And for the Whitecaps, it was a big wake-up call to be handed right before halftime, giving them something to chew on. After a dominant performance last week versus RSL, they looked like the same team that had a habit of starting games slow under Dos Santos, making for a listless first 45 minutes.
Of course, it was much too early to press the panic button, but they need to come up with something, and fast, at least if they wanted to get a win out of this game.
Which to give credit to them, they slowly started to do in the second half. Much like in the first half, it’d be a slow first 15 minutes to start, but then, they came alive.
Barely offered any service in the first half, the ‘Caps DP #10, Ryan Gauld, started to show his quality in the 57th minute.
First, he’d almost score a ridiculous goal, spotting a chance to shoot as he ran down the right wing.
Despite being on his weaker right foot, he went for a dangerous chip, nearly catching Brad Stuver out in the Austin goal. Stuver would recover in time, flicking the ball onto his crossbar and out for a corner, but it was a close call for the Austin goalkeeper.
Then, on the subsequent corner, Gauld showed his quality once again, whipping in a lovely ball that ‘Caps defender Florian Jungwirth did nicely to meet with his head, but the German just got under his header, sending it over the bar.
Soon after, the ‘Caps then came close to scoring in the 62nd minute, as ‘Caps striker Brian White did well to force Austin into a sloppy turnover, allowing him to head in 1v1 against Stuver. From there, though, Stuver would continue his strong half, denying White’s low shot with a fantastic kick save, before denying Gauld’s rebound attempt with a lovely sprawling stop.
And that’d pay off in the 70th minute, as Cristian Dajome, playing at left back, made a lovely run forward from his deeper position. Having reached the byline, he then put his head up and whipped in a nice ball on his weaker left foot, one that would find ‘Caps centre back, Erik Godoy, for a lovely header to equalize the game.
Of course, one can wonder what Godoy was doing up the field at that point, as there was no corner right before, and it wasn’t that late in the game, but whatever he was doing, it worked, and the ‘Caps had no complaint about him putting home that equalizer.
But having tied the game up again, they still needed to be careful, as Austin remained as a potential threat to grab back the lead at the other end. They reminded the ‘Caps of that in the 72nd minute, as Driussi found himself all alone behind the ‘Caps defence, but he’d be denied by a lovely kick save from Thomas Hasal in the Vancouver goal.
At the other end, the game then continued to open up, and the ‘Caps nearly punished Austin for that in the 77th minute, as second half sub, Deiber Caicedo, slipped behind the Austin defence. From there, he tried an audacious chip, but it’d just be cleared out by a last-gasp defensive clearance from a black shirt.
It’d then fall to Gauld, though, and he did well to set up an onrushing Dajome, but he then skied his one-time shot on his left foot just over the goal, keeping the game tied.
Continuing that momentum, Caicedo then managed to win a dangerous free-kick at the edge of the box in the 80th minute, and he stepped up to take it, with his curled effort only being kept out by a nice Stuver save in goal.
And with that wave of chances, the ‘Caps would then finally break down the Austin dam in the 83rd minute, and it’d be the 2 guys that had been doing the most damage all half for them who’d help them do so.
After a nice ball into him just inside the box, Gauld did well to strike a low shot, one that Stuver palmed to the side. What he didn’t realize though, was that he’d palmed the ball right to a wide-open Caicedo, who made no mistake in sliding home the rebound, giving his team the lead, completing the comeback.
Then, with that lead intact, the ‘Caps would then do what they needed to do the rest of the way to avoid relinquishing it, allowing them to grab all 3 points.
It wasn’t as dominant as their last victory, a 4-1 statement win over Real Salt Lake last week, but it was still an impressive victory, as they did well to pick up their 3rd comeback win in the last 4 wins.
But considering the hot streak that they’re currently on, though, they feel untouchable at the moment, as they don’t seem bothered by the prospect of having to come from behind in a game anymore.
Earlier in the season, whenever the ‘Caps conceded the first goal, it felt like a death sentence, but now, they seem to find a way to avoid getting sunk by it, showing their growth as a team.
So with that, they’ll look to ride that spirit all the way to the playoff spot now, of which they’ll get their next chance to continue their push of doing so with a huge 6-point clash with the Portland Timbers awaiting them next Friday, with the Timbers sitting just 1 point ahead of the ‘Caps as of writing.
When you also factor in the fact that it’s also a Cascadia Cup match, as well, the stakes are going to be high for the ‘Caps in this one, but based on how they’re rolling right now, they won’t care about that, as they’re ready for anything at this point.
Player of the Match: Erik Godoy
Otherwise, Godoy picks up the nod as our player of the match, although Caicedo’s 2nd half cameo did come close to usurping him here.
But that would feel unfair to Godoy, who was phenomenal in his return to the lineup after missing 5 games with an injury, showing why he can be a top 10 centre back in MLS when he’s in form.
From some massive blocks, to his goal, and his overall steadying presence at the back, he was excellent for the ‘Caps in this one, playing a big role in their ability to snatch all 3 points.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Florian Jungwirth
Elsewhere, we happened to pick Godoy’s centre back partner, Jungwirth, as our player to watch in this game, and he was quite an apt choice for that distinction, as he showed on Saturday.
With 78 touches, third-high on the team, along with 1 shot and 1 key pass, he was quite involved offensively, but he was also a force defensively, coming up with some huge blocks and some other big defensive actions.
In his 2nd start for the ‘Caps, he continues to show why his acquisition might’ve been one of the best ones they’ve made this year, giving them some much-needed stability at the back.
Heatmap of the Match:
Moving on, it otherwise was a decent performance in this section for the ‘Caps, who recovered nicely from their slow start to win this battle over Austin.
They need to get into the final third more, but if they keep opponents out of their box, as they mostly did here, and start getting more possession in those dangerous areas, they should continue to grow in this section.
xG plot of the Match:
Rolling through here, it was a pretty good showing for the ‘Caps in this section, as they ended up winning the Expected Goals (xG) battle after a slow start, which is quite impressive considering how far behind they were here at half time, as seen above.
But as these plots can do, it really gives you an idea of how poor the ‘Caps were in the first half, and how good they were in the second half, allowing them to grab a victory.
Quote of the Match:
Lastly, we don’t always do this section, but if Florian Jungwirth continues to speak after games, this might just have to become a regular staple, as he’s shown to be quote gold in his short time as ‘Caps player.
That was no exception in this one.
So now, the ‘Caps will enjoy this victory before shifting their attention to their next game, that clash with Portland, which will come up pretty quickly here.
It’ll be interesting to see if the ‘Caps can conjure up some reinforcements ahead of then, as they might see the return of their international absences, along with some possible injury recoveries, giving them a boost ahead of then.
If not, though, as they showed in this one, it won’t matter with how they’re playing, as they seem to have wings now.
Hopefully, those wings can allow them to fly right into the playoffs, because based on how they’re playing, they’re starting to feel like a team that deserves that distinction when the postseason kicks off later this year.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland Timbers, Friday, September 10th, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT (BC Place, Vancouver)