VANCOUVER — Ryan Gaud kept thinking about the goal he didn’t score.
Even though Gauld scored two first-half goals to help the Vancouver Whitecaps keep their Major League Soccer playoff hopes alive with a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids Wednesday night, he wasn’t happy with himself.
“It was good, but it probably should have been a hat trick,” said the Scottish midfielder. “I had a couple of chances. I’m a bit annoyed with myself that I didn’t get the third.”
Gauld has been on a roll, collecting either a goal or an assist in seven of his last eight matches.
“Ryan has been very good for us lately,” said head coach Vanni Sartini. “When the team helps him, he’s going to help the team.”
The game also marked the return of Vancouver goalkeeper Thomas Hasal who made his first start since injuring his hand May 8 in a game against Toronto.
Gauld opened scoring in the 14th minute off a heads-up play by Julian Gressel. The Whitecaps' midfielder, obtained from D.C. United in a July trade, stole the ball along the sidelines then drove toward the Colorado net. He dished the ball to Gauld who beat goalkeeper William Yarbrough with a right-footed shot.
It was just the second time in eight matches Vancouver scored the game’s opening goal.
Gauld made it 2-0 in the 40th minute. He pounced on a turnover in the Rapids' zone, used his speed to outrace a couple of defenders, then fired a low, hard shot past a sprawling Yarbrough that found the corner of the net.
Gauld came close again early in the second half, blasting a shot from deep in the box that was stopped by a Colorado defender on the goal line.
The Whitecaps almost weren’t able to finish what they started.
Colorado striker Gyasi Zardes narrowed the margin with a goal in 76th minute. That gave the Rapids some legs and they pressed Vancouver for the remainder of the match.
There was a groan from the crowd of 14,682 at BC Place Stadium when seven minutes of injury time was added. Zardes came close in the extra time hitting the post on a header.
“We played 70 minutes of fantastic soccer,” said Sartini. “The only missing piece was not scoring the third goal. It would have been our fault for not scoring the third goal.
“When you don’t kill an opponent when you have the possibility to kill it, everything stays open. We need to be more clinical when we have the possibility to score.”
The win leapfrogged the Whitecaps (9-11-6) into the seventh and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 33 points. It’s the first time this season Vancouver has been above the playoff line.
It also was the bounceback performance Sartini was hoping for after his team was mauled 5-2 by the L.A. Galaxy on the road Saturday night.
“It was in terms of approach in character and concentration,” said Sartini.
The Whitecaps, who have eight games remaining, are (3-3-3) in their last nine games.
Colorado (8-10-7) dropped to 11th in the West with 31 points. The Rapids suffered just their second loss in their last eight games (3-2-3). They are 2-7-3 on the road.
The Western Conference remains tight. Six teams are in contention with just two points separating the sixth-place Galaxy and Colorado.
The win gives the Whitecaps a little breathing room, but Gauld said the team can’t afford to relax.
“The pressure is probably the same because you go into a game knowing you need results because it’s so tight,” he said. “It’s probably going to go down to the last few games. “
Gauld has six goals on the season, second on the Whitecaps behind Lucas Cavallini’s eight. Gressel, who collected his first assist as a Whitecap, came close in the 38th minute with a hard shot from distance that just missed the open side of the net.
Colorado’s Jonathan Lewis had a couple of good chances in the first half. In the 22nd minute Hasal stopped a Lewis shot from the left side of the box, then in the 26th minute Lewis sent a shot just over the top of the net.
THROW-INS: Defender Javain Brown left the game early in the first half with a left ankle injury. … Gauld and defender Ranko Veselinovic are the only Whitecaps to score first-half goals at home this season. .. The Whitecaps are back on the road playing Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, wrapping up a stretch of three games in eight days. … Four of Vancouver’s eight remaining regular-season games are on the road. … The Whitecaps have loaned midfielder Caio Alexandre to Brazilian Série A side Fortaleza EC through Dec. 31, 2022. The 23-year-old Brazilian made five appearances across all competitions this season after recovering from a fifth metatarsal fracture
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022