Gressel set for Whitecaps debut as Vancouver looks to halt rolling Chicago Fire

·4 min read

VANCOUVER — The newest addition to the Vancouver Whitecaps' lineup simply wants to contribute.

Days after the 'Caps acquired Julian Gressel from D.C. United for US$900,000 in general allocation money, the star wingback told reporters he's the kind of player who'd rather have two assists than one goal because it means his team has scored twice.

“That’s me, the team player," he said. "I'm a team guy first that wants to win above all else. And if that means that my role is to assist more and not be scoring, that’s fine.”

Gressel tallied two goals and 13 assists in 34 Major League Soccer games for United last season. Since coming into the league in 2017, he's made 171 regular-season appearances, split between D.C. and Atlanta United, recording 19 goals and 58 assists.

His first chance to chip in for the Whitecaps will come Saturday when Vancouver (7-9-5) hosts the surging Chicago Fire (6-10-5).

Attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld is looking forward to what Gressel will add to the roster.

“He's very dynamic on the right-hand side. He likes to get on the ball, drive forward, and can whip some great balls into the box," Gauld said. "So it's another piece and we're all looking forward to getting to know him better and play with them.”

The Whitecaps are coming off a pair of hard-fought road draws, including a 1-1 result against the Timbers in Portland on Sunday.

A spate of injuries have kept several key players sidelined recently. Goalkeeper Cody Cropper went down during Vancouver's 2-2 draw against FC Cincinnati on July 13 after colliding with defender Javain Brown, and both missed the Portland game due to concussion protocol.

Getting points out of both matches infuses the 'Caps with some belief, Gauld said.

“In the grand scheme of things, taking a point from each of them (are) not bad results," he said. "Obviously we prepare to win but knowing that we can go to these places and get decent results, it brings a bit more positivity to the group.”

Chicago heads to Vancouver with back-to-back wins over Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders, and with victories in four of their last seven MLS games.

The Fire are a young team that can be "a little bit unpredictable," said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini.

"They have a clear philosophy on how to play. I think we need to, I would say, try to exploit the fact that when things are not going well, they seem to be ... not their best selves for 20-25 minutes. And you can quote 'kill them’ in that time," he said.

"So I think it is going to be very important how we approach the game from the start and try to be the team (that manages) to be in charge of the game.”

Getting all three points against Chicago will require taking lessons from recent outings, said 'Caps defender Jake Nerwinski.

“We’ve got to just play the way we've been playing. We got two really good road points," he said.

"So I think we’ve just got to use what we did in those games and now bring it to home. … We know we like to make it a tough place to play. And we got to continue to get wins there.”

CHICAGO FIRE (6-10-5) AT VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (7-9-5)

Saturday, B.C. Place

INJURY REPORT: The Whitecaps are still without midfielder Sebastian Berhalter (foot), and defenders Erik Godoy (calf), Cristian Gutierrez (calf) and Luis Martins (calf). Winger Deiber Caicedo is also out for the season after undergoing surgery on his right knee. The Fire will miss midfielder Gaston Gimenez (thigh) and defenders Jhon Espinoza (knee) and Wyatt Omsberg (foot). Winger Jairo Torres is listed as questionable due to health and safety protocols.

WELCOME BACK: The Fire haven't played in Vancouver since July 2018, when the 'Caps took a 3-2 win. Chicago has lost all four games it has played at B.C. Place.

LUCKY RAINBOWS: Saturday will mark Vancouver's ninth annual Pride match. Local artist Christina Hyrc has created a special logo for the game and there will be unique entertainment at B.C. Place, including a halftime dance party. The Whitcaps are unbeaten in their eight previous Pride matches, going 7-0-1 since 2013.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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