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Late Raposo goal gives Whitecaps win over Timbers


Comebacks seemed to be a theme for the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. 

Coach Vanni Sartini made his return to the sidelines. Dynamic forward Fafa Picault had a goal and an assist in his return from international duty. 

But most importantly, the club made a late rally and came back to take a 3-2 win over their regional rivals, the Portland Timbers. 

“When you allow teams back in, it’s important to show character,” Picault said. “The 3-2 is not a true reflection of how we played, I feel. But overall, I think just the group fighting together and still finding a result is important in this league.”

Ryan Gauld and Picault put away first-half strikes for the ‘Caps (3-1-1), but the Timbers (2-3-1) roared back with goals from Evander and substitute Felipe Mora in the second.

Ryan Raposo came off the bench in the 81st minute and scored the game-winner in the 87th, lifting Vancouver to its first home win of the Major League Soccer season. 

With the score knotted at 2-2, Picault collected a rebound inside the six-yard box and dished it off to Raposo. The Canadian tapped in a right-footed shot to seal the victory for the Whitecaps.

Lessons from previous seasons helped the group close out the victory, said Ali Ahmed.

“I think this group has gained some experience these last couple of years,” he said. “I think that came in handy today, just the chance to stay composed, not get rattled and just be ourselves.”

Vancouver goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka made two saves while Maxime Crepeau stopped two shots for Portland. 

The Timbers controlled 57 per cent of possession across the game, but the ‘Caps outshot the visitors 13-11, including a 6-4 advantage in on-target attempts.

Fans were still filtering into B.C. Place when Gauld scored in the second minute on Saturday. 

Ahmed slipped a pass through the Timbers defence to the Scottish attacking midfielder at the side of the six-yard box and Gauld sent a shot off the leg of Portland’s Zachery McGraw. The ball bounced back to Gauld’s foot and he fired a right-footed blast in past a diving Crepeau for his first goal of the season.

Alessandro Schopf set up the second goal with a ball into the penalty area that hit McGraw and skittered behind Gauld as he charged toward the net. Picault picked it up and sent a shot curling up and in over Crepeau’s outstretched hands to put Vancouver up 2-0.

The goal was Picault’s second of the season.

After being acquired as a free agent in January, it took Picault some time to find his place in Vancouver’s system, Sartini said. 

“I think that he finally understood, so credit to him and kudos to him,” the coach said. “It’s not always easy for a 33-year-old. He always played in a certain way. … When he started doing (our system) properly, you can see what he can give us.” 

Portland replied early in the second half when Cristhian Paredes took advantage of a defensive breakdown and sent a quick pass to an unmarked Evander. The Brazilian blasted a right-footed shot into the top corner of the net to make it 2-1. 

Mora — who came off the bench for Antony in the 64th minute — levelled the score in the 78th.

Evander sent a looping cross in and Mora got in front of Vancouver defender Tristan Blackmon to head the ball in from near the goal line. 

Sartini said his side had a lull midway through the second half, but the coach loved the way the ‘Caps played through the first 45 minutes. 

“If it were a city, it would be Florence. This is the first half, how beautiful it was. If it would be a person, it would be my wife, how beautiful it was. … If it would be an idea, it would be socialism, how beautiful it was,” he said.

Sartini made his return to the sidelines after missing the first four games of the regular season due to suspension. Many fans stood and cheered as the coach walked out onto the field and he responded by waving to and clapping for the crowd.

“The roar of the crowd when they announced me … beautiful, beautiful. And I’m speechless,” he said. “And I’m so grateful to the fans and so happy we can celebrate together at the end.”

The Whitecaps will continue a four-game homestand when they host Toronto FC on April 6. The Timbers are set to visit Sporting Kansas City on April 7.

FOOTNOTES: Crepeau, a former ‘Caps goalkeeper, played his first game in Vancouver as a member of the Timbers. The crowd booed the 29-year-old Canadian as he was announced on the big screen before the game and every time he touched the ball. … An announced crowd of 24,693 took in the game. 

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