June 22nd, 2024

No Messi, no problem: Inter Miami downs slumping Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1

By Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press on May 25, 2024.

Inter Miami's Lionel Messi plays the ball during the warm up at Stade Saputo ahead of an MLS soccer game against CF Montreal in Montreal, Saturday, May 11, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

VANCOUVER – A lack of star power didn’t stop Inter Miami on Saturday as the visiting side cruised to a 2-1 win over the slumping Whitecaps in Vancouver.

Robert Taylor scored and contributed an assist, while Leo Campana also found the back of the net for Miami (10-4-2).

Ryan Gauld replied for the ‘Caps (5-5-4), converting a penalty kick in the 72nd minute.

Miami’s Drake Callender made one save and Yohei Takaoka stopped four on-target shots for Vancouver.

Soccer fans were outraged earlier in the week to hear Miami wasn’t bringing soccer legend Lionel Messi to play in B.C. because of the club’s congested Major League Soccer schedule.

Pink Messi jerseys still dotted the announced crowd of 51,035 people and chants of “Where is Messi?” broke out in the game’s early minutes.

The result stretched Vancouver’s winless skid to six games (0-3-3) in MLS play and extended Miami’s unbeaten streak to 10 straight outings (7-0-3).

The ‘Caps started off with an aggressive offence, and came tantalizingly close to opening the scoring in the eighth minute. Gauld sent a cross to Fafa Picault at the far post and the striker headed it down, only to see his shot blocked by Marcelo Weigandt.

Miami – which also left Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez and Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets at home – peppered Takaoka with shots across the first half and finally beat the Japanese ‘keeper in the 38th minute.

Jordi Alba sent a ball to Taylor, who got around Vancouver defender Mathias Laborda inside the penalty area, then blasted a right-footed shot past Takaoka to put Miami up 1-0.

Vancouver did not register a shot on target through the first half, while the visitors logged five.

Taylor troubled the ‘Caps once again in the 54th minute, dancing around Laborda before dishing the ball off to Campana at the top of the six-yard box. Campana then tapped a shot in to give Miami a 2-0 lead in the 54th minute.

A video review in the 69th minute gave Vancouver life.

Tomas Aviles bodychecked Picault inside the penalty area and, while the foul wasn’t initially called, the play was double-checked by the video assistant referee and a penalty was awarded.

Gauld stepped up to take the kick and sent a right-footed shot past a diving Callendar, cutting Vancouver’s deficit to 2-1 in the 72nd minute.

Picault came within inches of levelling the score in the 81st when he blasted a shot off the post.

The Whitecaps return to action Wednesday when they take on Sporting Kansas City on the road. Miami will host Atlanta United the same night.

NOTES: After the announcement Messi would not come to Vancouver, the Whitecaps offered everyone at Saturday’s game a free ticket to another regular-season game in 2024. “¦ Saturday marked the first-ever MLS game between Vancouver and Inter Miami. “¦ Miami midfielder Julian Gressel made his return to B.C. Place. The 30-year-old made 38 appearances across all competitions for Vancouver between 2022 and 2023, putting up seven goals and nine assists.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2024.

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