July 12th, 2024

Vancouver Whitecaps look to climb standings with visit to Minnesota United

By Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press on July 2, 2024.

Vancouver Whitecaps attacker Ryan Gauld kicks the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match Wednesday, May 29, 2024, in Kansas City, Kan. Vanni Sartini believes every other team in Major League Soccer wants something his Vancouver Whitecaps have Ñ attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Charlie Riedel

VANCOUVER – Vanni Sartini believes every other team in Major League Soccer wants something his Vancouver Whitecaps have – attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld.

The 28-year-old Scot has fuelled the Whitecaps offence this season, contributing a team-high nine goals and four assists.

“I think 28 teams would like to have Ryan Gauld,” said Sartini, Vancouver’s head coach. “I think every team would like to place an offer with him. We are the lucky ones that have him.”

Gauld’s performance hasn’t gone unnoticed – he was named to this year’s MLS all-star team on Monday. Together with the likes of soccer legend and Inter Miami superstar Lionel Messi, Gauld will face a group of LIGA MX all stars in Columbus, Ohio, on July 24.

“To get a chance to train and hopefully get some minutes on the pitch with the best players in the league, it’s a cool opportunity,” Gauld said.

Now in his fourth season for Vancouver, the designated player has contributed 32 goals and 31 assists over 97 MLS games. He was named captain of the team ahead of the season, and Sartini said he’s since taken a bigger leadership role both on and off the pitch.

“He’s doing a great job and he deserves it,” Sartini said of the all-star nod. “Even though we have the luck to see beyond the numbers, the numbers speak for him. He scores a lot of goals and assists. He’s our best player and he’s our leader.”

Next up, Gauld and the Whitecaps (8-7-4) go out on a road swing that will see them visit Minnesota United (8-7-5) on Wednesday.

While the Loons come in on a four-game losing skid, they still sit a single point above the ‘Caps in the Western Conference standings, making the mid-week matchup a crucial test.

“It’ll be a tough game,” Gauld said. “Both teams looking to come away with three points. We’ll be in for a tough one.”

Vancouver sputtered at the end of April and through most of May, going winless in six league games (0-3-3).

The Whitecaps secured a 4-3 comeback win over St. Louis City on Saturday. Now the team is looking to string together some victories and climb the table, Gauld said.

“(Wednesday) is a huge game. Minnesota started their season really well. They’ve hit a bit of a slump, like we did,” he said.

“We’ve been pretty inconsistent lately. So we’re hoping we can take the good spirits from the comeback on Saturday and hopefully that’ll start the second half of our season.”

Just four points separate the No. 4 team from the No. 10 team in the competitive Western Conference and, as the season ticks down, the stakes grow higher in games where positioning is up for grabs.

That will be the case on Wednesday, Sartini said.

“Those games are six-point games because, if we win, basically, we also take away three points from them. And it will be a team that will fight for us for that position (in the Western Conference standings),” the coach said. “Every game against those teams are very important.”

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (8-7-4) at MINNESOTA UNITED (8-7-5)

Allianz Field, Wednesday

INS AND OUTS: The Whitecaps will be without defenders Sam Adekugbe (calf) and Tristan Blackmon (groin), while forward Damir Kreilach (calf) is questionable. Vancouver is also missing wingback Ali Ahmed (Canada) and defensive midfielder Andres Cubas (Paraguay), who are both at the Copa America with their national teams. Minnesota has four players at the tournament (Canadian goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, Canadian forward Tani Oluwaseyi, Panamanian midfielder Carlos Harvey and Costa Rican midfielder Alejandro Bran).

HISTORY BOOKS: Minnesota holds a 5-4-4 edge in all-time meetings between the two clubs. Vancouver won the last matchup 3-2 at BC Place back on May 6, 2023.

WHITE HOT: Vancouver striker Brian White has been named the MLS player of the match day after putting up three goals in Vancouver’s victory over St. Louis on Saturday. The performance marked the second time the 28-year-old American striker scored a hat trick in MLS play. White now has eight goals on the season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2024.

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