Ryan Gauld had a goal and an assist, and the Vancouver Whitecaps recorded a crucial 2-0 victory over Austin FC in their home finale on Saturday.
Gauld opened the scoring with a breakaway goal in the seventh minute and set up substitute Lucas Cavallini in the 62nd.
Goalkeeper Thomas Hasal made five saves to collect his fourth clean sheet of the Major League Soccer season for the Whitecaps (12-14-7).
Brad Stuver stopped four-of-six on-target shots for Austin (16-10-7), which dropped its fourth straight road game.
The result extended Vancouver’s win streak to three straight and kept its faint hopes of securing a playoff spot alive — at least temporarily.
The club now sits three points and two spots outside of a post-season berth in MLS’s ultra tight Western Conference. In order to make the playoffs, the Whitecaps need several results go their way this weekend, then beat Minnesota United on the road next week.
Tempers erupted in extra time Saturday when Vancouver’s Julien Gressel exchanged words with Austin’s Julio Cascante before Cascante knocked the defender to the ground. Players from both sides quickly ran into the melee and punches were tossed before the scrum was broken up by officials.
The score was already locked at 2-0 for the home side.
Three minutes after coming on for Brian White in the 59th minute, Cavallini made his presence known.
Gauld sent a low rolling ball into the penalty area and the Canadian striker tapped it in from the top of the six-yard box to boost Vancouver’s lead to 2-0.
The goal was Cavallini’s team-leading ninth of the season and came in his return from a four-game suspension for stepping on the neck of a Nashville SC defender.
Austin controlled 67.5 per cent of the possession across the first half and outshot the Whitecaps 8-5 (4-3 in shots on target) but Vancouver took a 1-0 lead into the locker room.
Gauld dominated across the first 45 minutes, wreaking havoc on the Austin defence and setting up his teammates.
Forty minutes in, the Scottish attacking midfielder danced around several defenders and fired a shot from the top of the box, forcing Stuver to make a diving save.
Two minutes later, Gauld and White displayed some picturesque passing inside the penalty area and created a solid chance for Vancouver. Stuver made an awkward-looking manoeuvre to stop White’s sliding shot from the middle of the box.
Gauld opened the scoring just seven minutes in on a breakaway.
Pedro Vite lobbed him a ball along the sidelines and Gauld streaked deep into Austin territory, going one-on-one with Stuver and sending a left-footed shot past the goalkeeper to make it 1-0 with his eighth goal of the season.
Austin’s key pieces still managed to get their chances Saturday.
Sean Driussi nearly evened the score in first-half injury time with a shot from in tight, only to see it blocked by ‘Caps defender Jake Nerwinski.
Driussi has 21 goals this season and is chasing Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar (23) in the golden boot race.
Austin’s Max Urruti sprinted into the Whitecaps’ end in the 22nd minute and blasted a shot on net. Hasal popped up off the goal line and punched the ball out of harm’s way.
Urruti has been trouble for the ‘Caps before. The 31-year-old Argentine forward has nine goals against the ‘Caps across his time with five different MLS teams (Austin, Portland, Dallas, Montreal and Houston).
The Whitecaps will wrap their regular-season campaign on the road against Minnesota United on Oct. 9.
FOOT NOTES: The game capped a three-game homestand where the Whitecaps chalked up three wins. … Vancouver has won three straight games for the first time since August 2021, when they beat Austin on the road and captured home victories against Los Angeles FC and Real Salt Lake. …An announced crowd of 19,292 took in the game at B.C. Place.