L.A. Galaxy down Vancouver Whitecaps, retake top spot in Western Conference

Los Angeles Galaxy's Miki Yamane, back left, and Vancouver Whitecaps' Alessandro Schopf collide while vying for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match, in Vancouver, on Saturday, April 13, 2024. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Losing hurt a little bit extra for Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini on Saturday. 

Sartini has preached the importance of defensive structure to his team all season, so it stung to see his side fall 3-1 to the L.A. Galaxy due to a late lapse.

“It’s a knife in my heart. It’s the worst way that we could lose. Because it’s all our fault,” the coach said. “We need to know that it’s all our fault. Because if we are, for two to three minutes, a little bit more patient and we defend well, we win.” 

The result saw L.A. climb back to the top of Major League Soccer’s Western Conference standings. The Whitecaps (4-2-1) held a one-point lead on the Galaxy (4-1-3) heading into the game. 

The two sides traded chances across the first half, starting with L.A. testing Vancouver early. 

Joseph Paintsil fought off a pair of ‘Caps defenders at the top of the penalty area in the ninth minute and got a pass off to Gabriel Pec. The Brazilian launched a left-footed shot from near the penalty spot and Vancouver ‘keeper Yohei Takaoka jumped to his right to punch the ball away.

Whitecaps striker Brian White got his first chance of the night in the 28th minute, collecting a long ball from Ryan Gauld, getting a step on L.A.’s Martin Caceres and unleashing a shot that sailed just wide of the post. 

The Galaxy broke the scoreless deadlock in the 56th minute off a rebound. 

Takaoka stopped a bullet of a shot from Pec but the ball bounced out to an unmarked Dejan Joveljic on the opposite side of the six-yard box. The Galaxy attacker tapped in a right-footed shot for his sixth goal of the season to put L.A. up 1-0. 

Five minutes later, White seemed poised to get Vancouver on the board when he picked off a pass at midfield and appeared to have a clear path to the net until Galaxy netminder John McCarthy came up high to challenge and sent his shot wide of the net. 

McCarthy made six stops for L.A. on Saturday, while Takaoka had two saves for Vancouver.

White finally beat the ‘keeper in the 61st minute off a corner kick. 

Gauld curled a ball into the penalty area and White put a blistering header down into the far corner to knot the score at 1-1 with his third goal of the season. 

“Goals change games,” White said. “I wasn’t able to put the first couple in the back of the net, but that’s sometimes how things go. You just have to keep going, keep fighting for any chance that comes.” 

The Whitecaps’ focus seemed to lapse after the tying goal. 

Some lax Vancouver defence allowed Riqui Puig to put a pass on Paintsil’s foot at the top of the six-yard box and, although Takaoka came off his line to challenge, Paintsil sent a right-footed shot in to put L.A. up 2-1 in the 80th minute.

“They got the ball in the middle, found it in a good spot. And that’s something we try to avoid. And obviously we didn’t and they punished us,” White said. “The good teams punish you when you make mistakes.” 

The Galaxy padded the lead in the 82nd minute when Paintsil sent a pass to Diego Fagundez and he fired a right-footed shot past Takaoka from centre of the box to seal the score at 3-1.

There are lessons to be learned from Saturday’s loss, Sartini said. 

“We need to remind ourselves that without humility, without following the plan to the tee, no one is good here. No one is good,” he said. “If we don’t follow the plan to the tee, we’re going to suffer.”

The Whitecaps will return to the road next week, visiting the Seattle Sounders on April 20. The Galaxy will welcome the San Jose Earthquakes on April 21.


The Whitecaps lost a key offensive piece in the 15th minute when striker Fafa Picault left the game with a lower-back muscle spasm. … Vancouver’s Takaoka, and L.A. defenders Miki Yamane and Maya Yoshida all played, marking the first time three Japanese players started an MLS game. … An announced crowd of 25,026 took in the game at BC Place. 

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