Vancouver Whitecaps' Gauld coming into his own during breakout season

Vancouver Whitecaps captain Ryan Gauld is aiming to build on his own momentum, as well as his team's.

After a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, he officially became the team's all-time leader in assists in Major League Soccer.

The Scottish attacking midfielder has 10 goals and nine assists in his last 14 appearances, but is more focused on helping the team qualify for the playoffs.

He only scored four goals in his first season in Canada, followed by eight in 2022.

"It took me a long time to get going. Finally I got going and hopefully it stays that way until the end of the season," Gauld said.

"He's one of the best players I've played with," added defender, and Canadian international, Sam Adekugbe. "He's also a great guy."

Gauld joined Vancouver in 2021, signing from Portuguese side Farense, after previous stints at Dundee and Sporting CP.

"The last couple months have been better," Gauld said. "For myself, I'm not talking statistically, it's helping the team and being effective."

The British press used to compare the slight Scotsman to Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, a comparison Gauld came to dislike due to the expectation it placed on him as a younger player.

"I've never been a flashy kind of guy. I think that just comes from my upbringing," he said. "It's a team game at the end of the day.

"What matters is the team and obviously it's nice to get the goals and assists, but the most important thing is the team and that's always what comes first to me."

When asked about MVP aspirations, Gauld downplayed his work, adding that he was more focused on the team's success.

"Just playing for the team. That's what gets all of us going. To try and get points on the board. I've never really been one who cares about stats … as long as the team keeps winning," he said.

The 27-year-old has formed a close connection with striker Brian White, who has scored a career-high 14 goals in all competitions this season.

"He's my favourite player. I think we have a great connection on the field," said White, laughing as Gauld was waiting to go after him in a media availability. "Any time you have a guy of that calibre that works that hard, I think the guys feed off it.

"You see him running, pressing, running in behind and it makes you want to contribute to the team just as much."

Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini echoed part of White's comments.

“They're both fantastic players, players that play for the team, players that do exactly what they do. So I think we need to high praise them," he said.

Sartini did not directly comment on Gauld's statistics this season, preferring to focus on his contribution to the team as a whole, but did praise Gauld's work off the ball.

"There's a lot of things you don't see in the stats. We have players with enough quality that if you don't see in the stats, they pay back without the stats," he said.

The Whitecaps currently occupy fifth place in the Western Conference after back-to-back wins over Portland FC and Chicago.

Sartini says a target for points could be set later, with his team — which has a 3-5-3 road record — continues its road trip, with five games left before the team returns home.

"If we do more wins on the road, the playoff spot is going to be there," said Sartini. "So, we need to keep working at this point extremely hard.

"There's another five games in a row away before we come back to B.C. Place. But we need to make points.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2023.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press