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Austin FC's Emiliano Rigoni, left, and Vancouver Whitecaps Bjorn Utvik vie for the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer match in Vancouver, on May 4.ETHAN CAIRNS/The Canadian Press

In front of the largest crowd ever in their MLS era, the Vancouver Whitecaps settled for a moral victory.

“It’s a fantastic performance,” said coach Vanni Sartini after his team played to a 0-0 draw against Austin FC on Saturday at BC Place.

With 32,465 fans on hand for the Whitecaps’ 50th anniversary, the club settled for a second straight draw to bring their record to 5-2-3 on the year. Vancouver snapped a two-game winning streak for Austin (4-3-4), which held its opponent scoreless for the third straight game.

The Whitecaps recorded a season-high 22 shot attempts, including seven on goal.

“Only the finalization was missing,” Sartini said. “And if we had a little luck, it probably wouldn’t be a tie game here.”

Averaging two goals a game heading into Saturday’s match and with striker Brian White riding a four-game goal-scoring streak, it’s the first time in MLS play this season that the Whitecaps were held off the scoreboard.

The fans roared early on, when captain Ryan Gauld beat Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver in the 19th minute. But the goal was called back following a video replay after a hand ball was identified before the shot.

With the Whitecaps pressing just before halftime, the officials went back to the replay to check a possible penalty by Alex Ring on Fafa Picault inside the box. Ultimately, it was determined that no penalty kick would be awarded.

“I don’t think we should talk about the VAR decisions because that was out of our control,” Sartini said.

Gauld hadn’t seen a clear replay before he spoke to the media after the game. Watching the replay of the potential penalty on the big screen in real time, he said, “It could have went both ways. But, unfortunately, not to be.”

The Whitecaps also lost midfielder Sam Adekugbe to a left calf injury in the 38th minute. The team played down a man for five minutes before Ryan Raposo subbed in.

Sartini did not have an update on Adekugbe after the game.

Tempers also flared before halftime. Picault and Austin defender Guilherme Biro were both shown yellow cards for poor sportsmanship after the penalty non-call, and a skirmish ensued between the two sides as they headed to their locker rooms, leading to a yellow card for Austin captain Sebastian Driussi.

White was also cautioned in the 46th minute after a foul on Jhojan Valencia.

All told, the Whitecaps controlled 62.2 per cent of the possession in the game.

Sartini was proud that his club didn’t abandon its defensive structure.

“The Whitecaps of 2023 lose this game,” Sartini said. ”We didn’t allow them to have any dangerous moments against us.”

In the second half, a diving Stuver got a hand on a point-blank shot by Raposo in the 52nd minute, then Alessandro Schopf fired the rebound just wide.

In the 77th minute, Gauld danced to the top of the box, but fired just over the net. Then in stoppage time, Stuver pulled down a loose ball from a crowd just in front of the goal line.

“It was a big night for the club,” said Gauld. “A big milestone, so we knew that the fans would turn up. They pushed us on as we would expect, but unfortunately we just couldn’t send everyone home happy.”


Earlier this week, Vancouver mayor Ken Sim officially proclaimed May 4 as Whitecaps FC 50th Anniversary Day. The club was also recognized at the Legislature by the Province of British Columbia. More than 100 alumni from across the Whitecaps’ five-decade history were welcomed to the pitch ahead of the opening kickoff.

Up next

As part of an eight-game schedule in May, the Whitecaps will hit the road next week. They’ll begin their defence of the Canadian Championship against Cavalry FC on Tuesday, then return to MLS action next Saturday against LAFC.

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