Whitecaps rally with two late goals, stun Galaxy and advance in Leagues Cup

Vanni Sartini served up several pre-game reasons why his Vancouver Whitecaps would be hard-pressed to beat the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday and advance to the round of 32 in the inaugural Leagues Cup.

Turns out the colourful head coach was wrong — and he’s more than OK with that.

Sartini had said that beating the Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park would be “super tough,” especially after torching the Los Angeles side for three first-half goals in their last Major League Soccer meeting at BC Place in Vancouver. The Caps eventually won that July 15 match 4-2.

“They’ll (Galaxy) want to show everyone that they are much better than that. It won’t be easy.”

After falling behind 1-0 on a Riqui Puig goal in the 16th minute, the Caps cranked up the pressure. It paid off with an own goal in the 81st minute. One minute into stoppage time Brian White scored the winner for the visitors, who eliminated the Galaxy from the Leagues Cup with the comeback victory and secured second place in West Group 3.

It was White’s 12th goal across all competitions this season, equalling his best scoring season with the club. He scored 12 goals in 2021.

Ten minutes before full time, Whitecaps FC levelled the score line against the run of play. Ryan Gauld whipped a cross into a busy box, forcing Lucas Calegari of the Galaxy to take an awkward touch, directing the ball into the back of his own net.

Vancouver opened the Leagues Cup with a 2-2 draw against Leon, but lost 16-15 in penalties. Leon then edged L.A. Galaxy 1-0 on July 26, setting the stage for Sunday’s showdown in California.

The round of 32 matches get underway next Wednesday. The Whitecaps will play on Friday (Aug. 4) against the visiting Mexican powerhouse Tigres UANL, who defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 on Sunday night.

THROW-INS: Attendance in Carson, Calif., was announced at 14,787. … The Galaxy controlled ball possession 61.1 per cent to the Caps’ 38.9 per cent, and outshot Vancouver 16-10 … The Whitecaps will be meeting Tigres for the third time in team history. In 2017, the Caps faced Tigres in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, with the LIGA MX side eventually winning the two-match series 4-1 on aggregate … Vancouver’s next MLS home match is Aug. 20 against the Earthquakes.