Vancouver Whitecaps "shut up" Providence Park, boost playoff hopes


Vancouver Whitecaps FC hit the right notes in their first of seven straight matches away from BC Place on Saturday night.

A 3-2 victory over Cascadia foe Portland Timbers at Providence Park saw the Whitecaps end the evening on 34 points. That puts them at seventh place in the Western Conference, but just three points behind third-place Real Salt Lake in the airtight table, with a match also in hand.

It was the Caps' second road victory of their MLS season (2W-5L-3D), and it could prove vital as the race toward the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs reaches its home stretch. While third place is well within striking distance, they're also just three points above the playoff line with 10 matches remaining.

"The objective is try to win every game. The standing is so close and so tight," Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini said after the match. "Every game is a massive opportunity in order to get ahead in the standings, and that's where we want to be."

Cascadia theatrics

The last time the Whitecaps traveled to Providence Park, they fell by a 3-1 scoreline on May 13, with the Timbers opening up a 2-0 lead in less than 20 minutes.

They flipped the script this time, taking a 2-0 advantage into the locker room at half. Although it wasn't smooth sailing to the finish line – the Timbers twice reduced the lead to one in the second half – the 'Caps ultimately saw matters out for all three points.

Sartini credited the traveling support for their role, not that they needed much motivation in the latest chapter of this Cascadia derby.

"I love rivalries, and I love to come here and shut up this stadium in the end," Sartini said. "Our supporters were massive today, always singing. We felt a little like we were at BC Place."

Gauld dominates

Ryan Gauld was one of the keys to victory for the 'Caps in Portland, scoring inside 15 minutes and adding a second goal from the penalty spot with 30 minutes to go. He also assisted on Brian White's tally in the 36th minute.

After going goalless over the first several months of the season, the Scottish attacker has rounded into form, currently on 9g/7a and slowly climbing into the 2023 MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi race.

"He's a machine that feeds himself. I think the last two months, you can put him in the same category of the MVP of the league," Sartini said. "His quality's outstanding. His commitment to the team is outstanding, and that's the most important thing for us. ...

"He's a DP not only when he has the ball, but when he doesn't have the ball. He's a DP in the way that he gets information and does everything that the team wants from him, and we're very happy that he's doing very well."