VANCOUVER — After a crucial win, Jake Nerwinski stood at centre field and delivered an impassioned speech to his Vancouver Whitecaps teammates Wednesday night.
The 3-0 victory over the L.A. Galaxy not only snapped a three-game losing skid for the 'Caps, it also preserved the club's faint playoff hopes.
“I told the guys that this is a statement win to say that we're not giving up, we're not bottling this season," Nerwinski said.
Vancouver (10-14-7) remains six points below the playoff bar with three games left on the regular-season schedule, but the team continues to believe a post-season berth is possible, the defender said.
"(The win) keeps us alive. I know it's a long shot. But as we can see from last year, anything can really happen," he said. "We’ve just got to keep building off of performances like this and take it one game at a time and it's good that we have two more home games left.”
After a quiet first half, Vancouver's offence erupted in the second.
Ryan Gauld opened the scoring in the 58th minute, Pedro Vite added to the advantage in the 68th with his first goal in Major League Soccer play, and Tosaint Ricketts came off the bench to add a final strike in the 86th.
The Galaxy (11-12-7) controlled 67.8 per cent of the possession across the game but the 'Caps outshot the visitors 6-2 in shots on target.
Vancouver 'keeper Thomas Hasal made two saves to collect his third clean sheet of the season while Jonathan Bond had three stops for L.A.
“I think we needed that after the few weeks and the couple of months we've had," Gauld said. "We needed not just the result, but I think the performance, especially the second half.”
After battling L.A. to a goalless deadlock in the first half, Vancouver raised the intensity in the second, he added.
“It’s kind of the way our season’s gone a lot — first half and second half are different stories, different pictures," Gauld said. "And the second half is what we need to build on. “
The second-half surge started with a Whitecaps' corner in the 58th minute.
Bond made a save on the initial play but his defenders couldn't clear the ball and Gauld scooped it up, blasting a left-footed shot into the bottom of the net. It was the Scottish midfielder's seventh goal of the season.
Vite boosted Vancouver's lead to 2-0 in the 68th minute.
Striker Brian White sliced a ball to Luis Martins and the midfielder sent it across the box to the back post, where Vite tapped it in for his first MLS goal.
Vancouver signed the 20-year-old Ecuadorean midfielder in August 2021 but did not see his first appearance for the club until this season.
“He's improved a lot," said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini, adding that Vite is now training with more intensity. "If you don't train with intensity you'll never play with intensity and he looked (like) he finally understood that. … So I hope that this quality and intensity is going to have continuity.”
Ricketts sealed the score at 3-0 in the 86th minute.
Julian Gressel sprang the 35-year-old Canadian striker and Ricketts went one-on-one with Bond, sending a low, rolling shot past the 'keeper for his fourth goal of the season.
Ricketts came in for White six minutes before the goal.
The first on-target shot of the game didn't come until the 47th minute when L.A.'s Riqui Puig unleashed a right-footed shot from outside of the box, forcing Hasal to make his first save of the night.
L.A. dominated 71 per cent of the possession through the first half but Vancouver's defence held strong, preserving a 0-0 draw heading into the locker rooms.
The visitors outshot the Whitecaps 4-2 across the first 45 minutes, though neither side registered a shot on goal.
Vancouver's best chance of the half came in the 28th minute off a throw in by Luis Martins. The ball landed in traffic at the top of the penalty area, where 'Caps defender Tristan Blackmon picked it up and sent a shot soaring over the crossbar.
The Galaxy nearly opened the scoring 20 minutes in when Javier "Chicarito" Hernandez got a header from inside the six-yard box, only to see the ball sail just wide of the post.
“I think you look at the first half, we defended most of the half. It was pretty tiring," Nerwinski said. "But I think, not just as a back three or back four, I think the entire team, we defended well. We didn't allow that final ball to come through to give pretty open opportunities. And in the second half, I think as a team we dominated and we deserved to win.”
It was a tough outing for L.A., who came into Vancouver on a six-game unbeaten streak (2-0-4) and sit three points out of a post-season berth.
The Whitecaps return to action Saturday when they host the Seattle Sounders in game two of a three-game homestand. The Galaxy host the Colorado Rapids the same night.
NOTES: Vancouver's leading scorer Lucas Cavallini was out serving the third game of his four-game suspension. … Whitecaps midfielder Sebastian Berhalter was shown the yellow card in the 82nd minute and will be suspended for Saturday's game. … Wednesday marked the first time the Galaxy have played at B.C. Place since April 2019. … An announced crowd of 16,681 took in the game.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2022.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press