Whitecaps' playoff drive hits big pothole in 3-0 loss to Nashville

·2 min read

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps hit a pothole in their drive to the Major League Soccer playoffs by giving up a pair of first-half goals and losing 3-0 to Nashville SC Saturday night.

Defender Jake Maher scored twice for Nashville who won back-to-back games for the first time since April. Maher and striker Randall Leal scored about four minutes apart in the first half.

The Whitecaps were forced to play with 10 men when striker Lucas Cavallini, a second-half substitution, was given a red card in the 53rd minute after stepping on Nashville midfielder Alex Muyl.

Whitecaps goalkeeper Thomas Hasal gave the crowd of 16,361 at BC Place Stadium something to cheer about when he stopped midfielder Dax McCarty on a penalty kick in the 90th minute.

With six games remaining the Whitecaps (9-12-7) drop to ninth place in the Western Conference with 34 points. They sit two points behind the Portland Timbers who hold the seventh and final playoff spot.

Nashville (10-9-9) climbs into fifth place in the West with 39 points.

The Whitecaps had some early chances but it was Nashville that opened scoring in the 19th minute off a brilliant goal by Leal. The Costa Rican gained control of the ball near midfield, used his speed to race away from a couple of Whitecaps, then blasted a right-footed shot into the far corner of the net past Hasal’s fingertips.

Nashville extended its lead in the 23rd minute. Striker Hany Mukhtar sent a corner kick into the box that Maher headed past Hasal for his first goal of the season.

Maher made it 3-0 in the 49th minute. Mukhtar sent another corner kick into the box that striker Ethan Zubak headed into the ground. Maher headed the rebound into the top left corner of the net. Mukhtar earned his team-leading 11th assist.

Vancouver’s Ryan Gauld had a chance to open the scoring in the 12th minute with a rising shot from outside the box that Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis had to leap to push over the top of the net. Just a couple minutes later Gauld took a Sebastain Berhalter pass and drove a shot just wide of the net.

GAME NOTES: The last time the Whitecaps battled back from a 2-0, first-half deficit was Oct. 20, 2021, when they beat Portland 3-2. … Defenders Javain Brown and Tristan Blackman both picked up a first-half yellow cards. … The Whitecaps next game is Sept. 4 in San Jose. … Vancouver’s last home loss was a 3-1 defeat to Chicago on July 23. … It was Nashville’s first visit to Vancouver. The teams tied 1-1 in Nashville on July 30.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2022.

Jim Morris, The Canadian Press