VANCOUVER — There’s been a lot of change for Vancouver Whitecaps striker Brian White in recent months.
A trade. New cities, new teammates, new playing styles. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s paying off.
White had his first Major League Soccer hat trick Saturday, leading the Whitecaps to a crucial 3-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in Vancouver.
“It’s been a lot of change in a short amount of time but for me, it’s been all about just trying to put that outside of my mind when I get on the field and just make the most of every opportunity I get to play,” said the 25-year-old American.
White was quick to make an impression after being dealt by the New York Red Bulls to the ‘Caps in June. Saturday marked his 20th appearance for the club and in that time he’s scored nine goals — tying a career high — and notched an assist.
“Coming into a team where I felt valued, it meant a lot to me. And being able to slot in and really just get a lot of games in right away, it just meant a lot to me to have so much trust with the club, with the players,” he said. “Being able to grow in that role was very important for me personally. And I’m just glad that I can help contribute to the team and help get three points.”
San Jose maintained 59.8 per cent of the possession Saturday, but the ‘Caps (9-8-10) controlled much of the play, outshooting the visiting side 18-11, and 6-5 in shots on target.
Goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau had five saves to collect his third-straight clean sheet for the Whitecaps. He has six on the season.
The 27-year-old Canadian now has a 332-minute shutout streak.
“It’s not just me. The guys are putting bodies on the line,” Crepeau said. “It’s a club effort. And everyone deserves these clean sheets.”
JT Marcinkowski stopped 3-of-6 on-target shots for the Earthquakes (8-11-9), with White beating him three times.
The striker’s chemistry with his teammates was on full display throughout the match.
White’s first strike of the night came in the 26th minute after he slipped a pass to Ryan Gauld from the top of the penalty area and the Scottish attacking midfielder went deep before getting off a solid shot.
Marcinkowski made the stop but couldn’t control the rebound and the ball popped out to White at the top of the six-yard box and he tapped it in to put Vancouver up 1-0.
A free kick made way for the second goal of the game in the 59th minute.
Mario Lopez fouled Gauld, setting up the kick just outside the penalty area. Deiber Caicedo sent a curling ball in and White leapt up from the crowd to send a header into the top-left corner of the net and put the Whitecaps up 2-0.
The final tally came off a corner in the 73rd minute, with Gauld sending a cross sailing into the box and White using his head to rocket it into the bottom-right corner of the San Jose net.
Whitecaps interim coach Vanni Sartini said White did what he was supposed to for the team on Saturday.
“He’s a very selfless player and being selfless, it helps you to be even the protagonist sometimes,” Sartini said. “Because that’s the key for us to win more games, thinking as a ‘we’ and not as a group of ‘I’s.”
White’s not only a popular target on the field, but a popular player in the locker room.
“He’s got a lot of jokes and he’s our DJ before the game and after the game. DJ Brian every day,” Crepeau said with a smile.
Following Saturday’s victory, the ‘Caps sit a single point below the playoff bar with seven games left to play.
The result also put some distance between the Whitecaps and Quakes in the table, with San Jose now four points behind Vancouver as six different clubs battle for the last three post-season berths in the Western Conference.
The ‘Caps will be back in action on Oct. 9 when they visit the Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders. The Earthquakes are set to host LAFC on Oct. 16.
NOTES: The Whitecaps and Earthquakes each saw three yellow cards. Vancouver’s Leonard Owusu (19th minute) and Javain Brown (90+4) were booked for bad fouls while defender Florian Jungwirth received a caution following a dust-up with Eric Remedi in the 54th minute. San Jose’s Shea Salianas and Nathan Cardoso were shown the yellow card. … Players from both sides wore “Every Child Matters” patches on their jerseys as the ‘Caps recognized Indigenous night. … A crowd of 12,069 took in the game. … The Earthquakes came into Saturday’s match unbeaten in eight road games.