VANCOUVER, Canada — Gerso had a goal and an assist in the second half to help lead Sporting Kansas City to a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday night, disappointing an announced crowd of 18,700 at BC Place hoping for a positive result after seven games without a win.
The Whitecaps drop to the bottom of the Western Conference, nine points out of a playoff spot.
Heading into the game, there were two big selection surprises by head coach Marc Dos Santos. Between the sticks, Zac MacMath started instead of Maxime Crépeau. Up front, 19-year-old striker Theo Bair replaced the suspended Fredy Montero.
“We looked at the 15 games that we have from LA until the end of August and when the best time is to rotate before Max [Crepéau] gets a big stretch and this was the best time for us,” Dos Santos said.
Even though Bair had some chances throughout his first MLS start and MacMath made some key saves, neither were able to stem the tide of negative results for the Whitecaps.
MacMath kept a Graham Zusi free kick out in the 10th minute and then stopped a short-range attempt by Dániel Sallói in the 16th minute.
Sporting was the better team and it was only a matter of time before the team scored. The goal finally arrived under the most unfortunate circumstances for Vancouver. Gerso dribbled the ball into the box from the right and played a low cross into the box that bounced off Ali Adnan into his own goal.
With the Caps down a goal, Bair kept snatching chances. The striker jumped on a loose ball in the box in the 31st minute, but Seth Sinovic blocked his shot. That attempt was just one of three for the Whitecaps in the first half as they were completely dominated by a Kansas City side that had 63 percent possession and nine attempts on goal.
“I told the players what I’m going to say now that I have to apologize to the fans for the first half,” Dos Santos said. “That is where the game happened. It was very sloppy lack of intensity, lack of willingness mentally, you can’t play like that in a game that had this much importance for us.”
Then at the start of the second half, the Whitecaps finally produced their first real chance of the game. Hwang In-Beom was brought down just outside the box in the 47th minute, the Korean stepped up and forced a fantastic stop from Tim Melia.
Vancouver was trying to force their way back into the game. Bair missed an opportunity from 18-yards, and Reyna tested Melia with a curled effort from outside the box in the 51st minute.
Pressing high, however, allowed Sporting to go on the counter and MacMath had to be on guard in the 52nd after Gerso broke into the penalty box. Four minutes later he fished the ball out of his net for a second time after Felipe Gutiérrez beat the ‘keeper with a low drive from 18 yards.
The Whitecaps worked hard to get back into the game, but the goal effectively killed the match. Even though the Whitecaps produced chances, Sporting quickly circulated the ball among their ranks for the rest of the game.
“We need to have a different type of mental toughness,” Dos Santos said when asked about the Whitecaps regularly deflating when faced with adversity.
Defender Doneil Henry said it is difficult falling behind.
“It is tough, I don’t want to make any excuses for why and what is going on,” Henry said. “When you are playing with a team that is not doing well it is easy to point fingers but as a club we are not doing well … as a team we have been doing poorly and that needs to change.”
The only time the Whitecaps were dangerous was off set pieces. Reyna hitting the post from a free kick in the 77th minute was, in fact, the only opportunity to get back into the game for the ‘Caps.
Instead, Sporting added a third in extra-time. Krisztián Neméth broke into the box and from the byline played a ball into the six-yard box that found Gerso wide open and the forward made no mistake tap the ball across the line.
Vancouver Whitecaps (4-3-1-2)
MacMath – Rose, Henry, Godoy – Adnan, “PC” (Teibert, 60′), Erice (Venuto, 60′), Inbeom, Nerwinski (Ardaiz, 90′) – Bair, Reyna
Sporting Kansas City (4-3-3)
Melia – Sinovic, Besler, Baráth, Zusi – Zelalem (Feilhaber, 65′), Ilie Sánchez, Gutiérrez – Sallói (Russell, 89′), Croizet (Neméth, 71′), Gerso