VANCOUVER — Lucas Cavallini scored in injury time, giving the short-handed Vancouver Whitecaps a much-needed 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Friday.
The Canadian striker fired a left-footed shot from inside the penalty area in the second minute of added time to secure the win for the 'Caps (8-10-6).
Simon Becher — making his Major League Soccer debut — put away Vancouver's first goal of the night in the 88th minute.
Fafa Picault opened the scoring for Houston (7-13-4) in the sixth minute.
The 'Caps were playing without several regulars after a COVID-19 outbreak forced six players into the league's health and safety protocols on Thursday.
The result is crucial for a Vancouver side still hunting for a playoff berth. The Whitecaps now sit two points outside of a post-season spot.
Houston dominated the first half on Friday, but a series of subs ignited Vancouver's offence, with the home side outshooting the visitors 13-9 across the game. Shots on target were even at four apiece.
Fans were still filtering to their seats when Houston opened the scoring in the sixth minute.
Vancouver denied the visitors on a corner but Sam Junqua got to the second ball and sent it in from the top of the penalty area. Picault got a touch in front of the net, dribbling a shot into the bottom right corner past Cropper.
The Whitecaps struggled mightily across the first half, with the Dynamo hemming them into their own end for extended stretches — a problem that was compounded by frequent defensive lapses.
Houston controlled 63.5 per cent of the possession through the opening 45 minutes. They outshot the home side 6-4 and 2-1 in on-target chances.
Vancouver appeared poised to equalize in the 43rd minute when Julian Gressel delivered a crisp cross into the box where Tosaint Ricketts was sliding toward the net. The Canadian striker's outstretched foot just missed the ball and the 'Caps went into halftime down 1-0.
Head coach Vanni Sartini looked to inject some offence into his lineup in the 56th minute, bringing on striker Lucas Cavallini for midfielder Pedro Vite and swapping Michael Baldismo in for Leonard Owusu in the middle of the park.
The move nearly paid dividends three minutes later when Ryan Gauld put the ball on Cavallini's foot and the burly Canadian sailed a shot wide of the post.
Houston nearly doubled its lead in the 60th minute after Thorleifur Ulfarsson carved open the 'Caps defence and released a blast from the middle of the box.
Cropper dove to make a stop, with the initial shot going off his outstretched hand, then hitting the post and rolling toward the goal. The Vancouver 'keeper pounced on the loose ball moments before it crossed the line.
The Whitecaps continued to push but frustration showed. Cavallini was cautioned in the 78th minute for a bad foul and Gauld was shown the yellow card a minute later for a sliding tackle on Picault.
Cavallini will be suspended from next week's game due to yellow card accumulation.
The 23-year-old Becher came on in the 82nd minute and quickly got to work, sending a right-footed shot into the bottom right corner of the net in the 88th minute.
Defender Ranko Veselinovic set up Cavallini's game-winning goal in the 92nd minute.
The Whitecaps will hit the road next week, taking on the Galaxy in L.A.
NOTES: Whitecaps striker Brian White missed Friday's match due to a rib cage strain. … Central midfielder Alessandro Schopf was on Vancouver's bench. The 'Caps signed the 28-year-old Austrian on Wednesday. … An announced crowd of 14,668 took in the game.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2022.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press