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Another game, another late point stolen for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Trailing as the game with Real Salt Lake ticked down toward an unpalatable conclusion in Sandy, Utah, the Caps snatched a late equalizer and point with a 1-1 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium.
It was Ryan Gauld’s cross from outside the final third finding Julian Gressel in the middle of the box with three minutes left in regulation, and the newcomer headed home his first goal as a Cap, and it couldn’t have been much bigger.
It came 16 minutes after Sergio Córdova had put the home up in the 61st minute, but they couldn’t hold off the usual late-game dramatics from Vancouver.
The Whitecaps (9-11-7) displaced the Seattle Sounders from seventh place again with the result, while Salt Lake (10-8-8) stay in fifth place in the West.
In their last meeting in Vancouver on June 4, the Whitecaps won on a 93rd minute penalty kick from Gauld.
Here’s what we learned …
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Shots on target by either team in the first half Saturday (Justin Meeram). They combined for seven in the second half, not including crossbars both teams hit.
59.5: Possession for RSL in the first half. But the game’s end, it was 54.2 as the Caps settled into the game, late, again. Vancouver actually had the better scoring chances in the opening 45, with the bulk of Salt Lake’s possession coming in their own half.
81.3: The Whitecaps overall passing percentage, which dropped to 66 and 69.9 in the attacking half and final third.
11: Goal involvements for Gauld in the last 10 games, as he assisted on Gressel’s 87th minute equalizer.
Nashville SC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
7 p.m., B.C. Place, TV: TSN, Radio: AM730
Cristian Dajome had 10 goals and five assists in 2021, the kind of production the Whitecaps expected when they signed the Colombian in 2020. But this season, he’s been a phantom; just two goals and four assists so far, with just one goal in his last 21 games across all competitions.
He’s a traditional winger, but has pressed into a role as a wingback in Vanni Sartini’s system, and seemingly has suffered a crisis of confidence as a result. His shots are often blasted high, the sign of a player leaning back and trying to place it instead of confidently powering it.
THE GREAT WALL OF HASAL
It had been three months since Thomas Hasal had a compound dislocation of his middle finger — an injury where his bone was sticking through the skin — and tore the ligaments in the same finger.
Three long months of rehab and hard work, and he had his second start Saturday.
Always considered a stellar shot stopper, the kid from Saskatoon did his part to keep the game scoreless through the first 60 minutes.
His first test was a long-distance rocket destined for the top corner from the ageless Justin Meeram seven minutes into the game, but he turned it aside.
He also went to a full stretch to get a hand on another missile, this time from Jefferson Savarino in the 51st minute, to keep the game scoreless.
After the two teams exchanged shots off the crossbars, Russell Teibert’s woodwork effort was turned immediately in the other direction. Jasper Löffelsend curled a perfectly weighted through ball just across the face of Ranko Veselinovic, where Córdova took a touch and sent it past an onrushing Hasal into the net. He had no chance on the shot from 10 yards out, with Córdova leaving Veselinovic in his wake and nearly all of the net to shoot at.
He finished the game with three saves.
Midfielder Russell Teibert, who has only had four yellow cards in a season twice before this one, picked up his fifth of 2022 on Saturday night, meaning he’ll miss next week’s game.
Gauld, Dajome and Ranko Veselinovic are currently sitting on four yellows, while Lucas Cavallini leads the team with eight.
OUT OF TOWN SCOREBOARD
The Western Conference is full of drama as the season winds down, especially in game involving teams the Caps are directly competing with for a playoff berth.
The Colorado Rapids had a chance to leapfrog the Whitecaps in their game against Western Conference basement denizens Houston, by the Dynamo got a 95th minute goal from Sebastián Ferreira to snatch victory away from the Rapids.
On Friday night, the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy played to a draw, the 3-3 draw coming with a 92nd minute penalty kick converted by Dejan Joveljic. It boosted the Sounders into seventh place (33 pt) ahead of the Caps game Saturday, while the Galaxy inched ahead into sixth on 34 points.
Vancouver returns to B.C. Place next Saturday, the first of four remaining home games on the schedule (LAG, Sept. 14; Seattle, Sept. 17; Austin, Oct. 1) with three more contests on the road (San Jose, Sept. 4; Colorado, Sept. 14) including their Decision Day showdown with Minnesota United on Oct. 9.
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