Cavallini scores, short-handed Whitecaps grab dramatic win over Dynamo

VANCOUVER — Lucas Cavallini scored in stoppage time to give the short-handed Vancouver Whitecaps a much-needed 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo on Friday.

The Canadian forward fired in a left-footed shot from inside the box in the second minute of stoppage time to seal the win for the Caps (8-10-6).

Simon Becher, making his Major League Soccer debut, put away Vancouver’s first goal of the night in the 88th minute.

Fafa Pico opened the scoring for Houston (7-13-4) in the sixth minute.

The ‘Caps were without several regulars after the COVID-19 outbreak forced six players to comply with the league’s health and safety protocols on Thursday.

The result is crucial for a Vancouver team still in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Whitecaps now sit two points out of a postseason spot.

Houston dominated the first half on Friday, but a flurry of reserves fueled Vancouver’s offense as the home team outscored the visitors 13-9 throughout the game. There were even four shots on goal.

Fans were still gathering in their seats when Houston opened the scoring in the sixth minute.

Vancouver denied the visitors a corner, but Sam Junqua got to the second ball and sent it from the top of the penalty area. Pico got a touch in front of goal, dribbling a shot into the bottom right corner past Cropper.

The Whitecaps struggled mightily in the first half, with Dynamo pressing them in their own end for long stretches – a problem that was compounded by frequent defensive lapses.

Houston controlled 63.5 percent of possession in the first 45 minutes. They outscored the home team 6-4 and 2-1 under real circumstances.

Vancouver looked poised to equalize in the 43rd minute when Julian Gressel delivered a sharp cross into the box where Tosaint Ricketts slid toward the net. The Canadian striker’s outstretched leg just missed the ball and the Caps went into the break up 1-0.

Head coach Vanni Sartini tried to inject some attack into his squad in the 56th minute, bringing on striker Lucas Cavallini for midfielder Pedro Vitte and replacing Michael Baldismo with Leonard Owusu in the middle of the park.

The move almost paid dividends three minutes later when Ryan Gold put the ball at Cavallini’s feet and the strong Canadian fired wide of the post.

Houston nearly doubled their lead in the 60th minute after Thorleifur Ulfarsson opened up the Caps defense and fired a shot from the middle of the box.

Cropper had to stop as the initial shot went off his outstretched arm before hitting the crossbar and rolling towards the goal. The Vancouver goalkeeper pounced on the loose ball moments before it crossed the line.

The Whitecaps continued to push but showed frustration. Cavallini was booked in the 78th minute for a bad foul and Gold was booked a minute later for a sliding tackle on Pico.

Cavallini will be suspended from next week’s game due to yellow card accumulation.

Becher, 23, came on in the 82nd minute and quickly got to work, firing a right-footed shot into the bottom right corner of the net in the 88th minute.

Defender Ranko Veselinovic set up Cavallini’s winning goal in the 92nd minute.

The Whitecaps hit the road next week, taking on the Galaxy in LA

NOTES: Whitecaps forward Brian White missed Friday’s game with a pectoral strain. Center midfielder Alessandro Schopf was on the bench for Vancouver. The ‘Caps signed the 28-year-old Austrian on Wednesday. An announced crowd of 14,668 attended the game.

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