VANCOUVER — Lucas Cavallini scored in added time to give the shorthanded Vancouver Whitecaps a well-deserved 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo on Friday.
The Canadian forward fired a left-footed shot from inside the penalty area in the second minute of added time to secure the Caps victory (8-10-6).
Simon Becher, making his Major League Soccer debut, scored Vancouver’s first goal of the night in the 88th minute.
Fafa Picault opened the scoring for Houston (7-13-4) in the 6th minute.
The ‘Caps were playing without several regulars after a COVID-19 outbreak forced six players to adhere to league health and safety protocols on Thursday.
The result is crucial for a Vancouver team still chasing a playoff berth. The Whitecaps are now two points from a playoff spot.
Houston dominated the first half on Friday, but a series of subs ignited Vancouver’s offense as the home side edged the visitors 13-9 throughout the game. Shots on target were even at four each.
Fans were still filtering back to their seats when Houston opened the scoring in the sixth minute.
Vancouver denied the visitors from a corner, but Sam Junqua picked up the second ball and sent it from the top of the penalty area. Picault touched down in front of the net, dribbling a shot into the bottom right corner past Cropper.
The Whitecaps struggled mightily throughout the first half, with Dynamo hemming them in their own end for long stretches – a problem that was compounded by frequent defensive lapses.
Houston controlled 63.5 percent of ball possession in the first 45 minutes. They outshot the home side 6-4 and 2-1 in the chances on target.
Vancouver looked close to equalizing in the 43rd minute when Julian Gressel fired a clean cross into the box where Tosaint Ricketts slid towards the net. The Canadian forward’s outstretched foot narrowly missed the ball and the ‘Caps went in at halftime 1-0.
Head coach Vanni Sartini looked to inject attack into his lineup in the 56th minute, calling on forward Lucas Cavallini for midfielder Pedro Vite and swapping Michael Baldismo for Leonard Owusu in the middle of the park.
The move almost paid off three minutes later when Ryan Gauld put the ball on Cavallini’s foot and the burly Canadian sailed a shot wide of the post.
Houston almost doubled their lead in the 60th minute after Thorleifur Ulfarsson opened up the Caps defense and fired a strike from the middle of the box.
Cropper dove to stop, the initial shot coming off his outstretched hand, then hitting the post and rolling towards goal. The Vancouver keeper pounced on the loose ball moments before it crossed the line.
The Whitecaps kept pushing but frustration kicked in. Cavallini was cautioned in the 78th minute for a bad foul and Gauld was shown the yellow card a minute later for a sliding tackle on Picault.
Cavallini will be suspended from next week’s game due to an accumulation of yellow cards.
Becher, 23, came on in the 82nd minute and quickly got to work, sending a right-footed shot into the bottom right corner of the net in the 88th minute.
Defender Ranko Veselinovic scored Cavallini’s winning goal in the 92nd minute.
The Whitecaps will hit the road next week, taking on the Galaxy in Los Angeles
NOTES: Whitecaps forward Brian White missed Friday’s game with a rib cage injury. Central midfielder Alessandro Schopf was on the Vancouver bench. The ‘Caps signed the 28-year-old Austrian on Wednesday. An announced crowd of 14,668 attended the game.