The Vancouver Whitecaps triumphed over fellow basement dwellers Austin F.C 2-1 on Wednesday night. The ‘Caps did all right in the first half before totally blowing Austin away after Ryan Gauld was introduced to the game at half time.
The first half left viewers (or me at least) with mixed feelings. On the one hand the ‘Caps created the better of the chances. But, on the other hand Austin managed to snatch a goal and it felt like the Whitecaps really should be making Austin pay more for their poor play. The expansion side struggled to play out of the back, never looked very dangerous going forward, and their defence looked exploitable. Despite that the Whitecaps were mostly limited to blocked shots from the perimeter of the penalty box. There was one big chance with Brian White latching on to a brilliant Cristian Dájome pass but the striker scuffed his shot wide.
At half time Ryan Gauld was subbed in. After that the game was not even remotely close. In the second half the Whitecaps outshot Austin 10-4 and had 1.9 xG to Austin’s 0.6. The first goal was clawed back off a corner. Gauld’s delivery found a very unmarked Brian White at the back post. White’s shot was well saved by Austin keeper Brad Stuver but Jake “the goal machine” Nerwinski was there to tap in the rebound.
20 minutes later Caicedo put through Gauld who then cut the ball across to the embattled Brian White to slide in to the empty goal.
Gauld was tied for Dájome for most shot involvements by a Whitecap which is pretty impressive for a guy who only came on at half time. Generally speaking, over the past three seasons the Whitecap who lead the team in shot contributions averaged about 3 or 4 per game. So seeing somebody be involved in 7 in one half felt kind of surreal. Of course Austin are a pretty terrible team and he’s not going to be that effective every game (surely not, right?) but it felt really good to see a Whitecaps player put the fear into an opponent again.
It also felt good to see the Whitecaps play an opponent off the park. I don’t think we’ve seen a ‘Caps team be that dominant in a long time. It was all the more impressive because it was on the road. True, Austin are bad, but 52% of MLS games are won by the home team.
I doubt the Whitecaps are going to go on a good enough run to make the playoffs but we might just have a lot of fun watching them try.