The funny thing about scoring goals is it typically leads to a bright spotlight. White, though, hasn't always gotten that. Maybe it's because he was a late-bloomer by recent MLS standards or that he came through the SuperDraft and then USL Championship. But after a hat trick in a 3-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes last weekend, as well as his role helping lead the 'Caps up the table and firmly in the Audi MLS Cup Playoff race, White's becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
But, unlike most forwards, he doesn't exactly crave the limelight, nor does he love talking about himself.
“Eh, it’s nice. Obviously I want to score goals but I like to fly under the radar," White told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. "I don’t like all that energy. I guess it’s nice to be recognized for doing a good job.”
White was traded to the Whitecaps from his hometown New York Red Bulls at the beginning of June, never quite gaining the backing of new RBNY head coach Gerhard Struber. Vancouver were looking for another quality striker to add competition and depth, particularly with Lucas Cavallini missing time on international duty at various stages over the summer. White's knack for goals, profile for getting on the end of crosses and strong character – something the Whitecaps have placed an emphasis on of late – made him a sensible target.
“In a way I was surprised, there weren’t many discussions going on with my agent," White said. "But the writing was on the wall. I wasn’t playing, I was being sent to the second team. But it came at a good time for me. Finding a team that I could fit in better with and wants me to play, so it’s been a good move.”
With nine goals and an assist in 20 appearances (17 starts, 1,386 minutes), White has been worth every bit of the $400,000 General Allocation Money they sent RBNY to acquire him. The traditional forward has excelled in Vancouver and is particularly enjoying being surrounded by the creative abilities of Ryan Gauld, Deiber Caicedo and Cristian Dajome.
“Whenever you play with guys like Gauld, Deiber and Dajome, it makes your life so much easier," White said. "Having quality players around, all I have to worry about is getting on the end of passes. ... I never saw myself as much of a creator, I never saw myself as a guy who wants to always be on the ball. For me to just poach goals, make runs in the box, that’s how I thrive. When you have players who can do the creative part, it makes it a lot easier for me.”
Interim head coach Vanni Sartini has leaned on that attacking group and Vancouver are on the precipice of the playoff line, sitting one point off seventh-placed Minnesota United FC and just two behind Real Salt Lake. They have a game in hand over two of the three teams directly above them, meaning they control their own destiny.
It won't be easy. Four of their seven remaining games come against the top four teams in the West, including twice having to face first-placed Seattle Sounders. The run kicks off on Saturday (9 pm ET | TSN 1, ESPN+) at Seattle's Lumen Field.
White grew up in New Jersey and signed with the Red Bulls after college, spending his professional career's first chapter around his hometown. He played for their U-23 team, signed a contract with RBNY II in the USL Championship and his form earned an MLS contract and regular contributing role under Chris Armas.
A move West, with a little sojourn in Utah before the 'Caps were able to return to Canada, has been a very different adventure, and one White is relishing.
“It’s been good, obviously difficult at first to up and move," White said. "New Jersey is my home. But going to Salt Lake and knowing that was only temporary, it’s been really nice to get to Vancouver and feel home.”
White has also played for five different head coaches (including interims) since the start of 2020, with managerial changes in both New York and Vancouver. Throughout it all, he's produced.
“A lot of moving pieces, a lot of change in life but for me, my escape is being on the field," White said. "When I get out there, I forget I moved to a different country. Soccer is the easiest part to put everything to the side and just focus on that.”