When asked to describe his 2022 season in one word, Vancouver Whitecaps FC attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld responded with “I’ll go with three, highs and lows.”
It was the Scot’s first full season in Vancouver after joining the club in July 2021, having led the club to an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs berth off the back of wrapping up the Liga Portugal season with his previous club SC Farense.
Despite arriving in the summer, Gauld immediately made an impact with the ‘Caps, recording four goals as well as six assists in 18 appearances and tallying the most key passes per match amongst MLS newcomers.
Gauld was hoping to start the 2022 campaign in the same fashion but unfortunately found himself dealing with injuries in the first half of the year, which saw him in and out of the team.
“It was tough, I’ve not really had a season where I’ve been kind of stop-and-start so much but it was a long season so I just had to be patient, it was just waiting until things could get running again.”
Gauld was keen to get back to his standards, in order to help the team pick up results in the thick of the MLS season.
Once he played consecutive 90 minutes against Minnesota United and FC Cincinnati in July, Gauld noticed a shift.
“Once I got the consecutive 90 minutes, things started to pick up and I felt fitter, felt stronger and managed to end the season in a better place than the way I started it.”
In his final 15 matches of the season, Gauld tallied 14 goal contributions, ending the season with a total of eight goals as well as 11 assists across all competitions and being named the 'Caps Player of the Year.
It’s not just about the quantity of goal contributions but it’s the quality of them as well, given the creativity and vision required to pull them off.
Across the globe, it’s tough to find players like Gauld who possess the two traits as well as he does.
Gauld says he learnt to develop his vision and creativity during his youth and has continued to improve on them throughout his career.
"A lot of it came from coaching, from a young age understanding the positional side of the game and areas to pick up to get on the ball," explained Gauld.
"A lot of it as well comes from years playing in that position and understanding what pockets of space are going to be available at certain times and then the more you play, it helps as well getting to know the people you play with. You can feed off each other and who's going to be occupying which area of the pitch is a big help."
He also notes he's never been the tallest player, so figuring out how he can impact the game in a different way without having to worry about physically matching opponents.
However, Gauld mentions the attack is not solely down to his creativity, it's a collective unity to be able to harness each player's strengths in the final third to create goalscoring opportunities for the team.
“We have a lot of good, intelligent players in the team so they're always in space, they're always making runs. It's more of a team effort than me individually."
One of his assists included an inch-perfect cross for Brian White’s header against Toronto FC in the Canadian Championship.
That night, in particular, was a highlight of the season for the Scotsman, as he described it as a brilliant moment to be a part of.
“That’s what we all play football for cause we all want trophies so to get the chance to win it in Vancouver in front of a packed house stadium was something that we’ll all remember,” recalled Gauld.
“We don’t want it to just be once every 10 years or something [we win a trophy], we want to give continuity to that so next year we’ll be looking to do the same.”
Next year, Gauld and the 'Caps will have plenty of opportunities to claim more silverware, as they'll be competing in a total of four competitions.
“We’ve got to go into each one with a positive outlook and with a hope of winning more trophies,” said Gauld.
"It's going to be good, I think it's something that everyone's looking forward to, the Leagues Cup is a new format, a lot of the guys here, like myself, haven't played Champions League, we have obviously the Canadian Championship to try and retain as well as MLS so everyone's really looking forward to it."
Those competitions will also give players more opportunities, with Gauld hoping the squad can develop their relationships during preseason, work on key tactics for the upcoming year and prepare themselves to full fitness.
"No player likes weekends off, you want to be playing games every three to four days and there's going to be a lot of rotation so a lot of opportunities for guys and we're all going to need to make sure we're ready and give each competition all we've got."
In terms of personal goals for next year, Gauld hopes to work on bringing his leadership to the group by being more vocal on and off the pitch, all while continuing to bring the creativity and vision he's shown during his time with the 'Caps.
Catch Gauld and the ‘Caps compete in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 against Honduran side Real CD España, with the first leg being played on Wednesday, March 8 at BC Place. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT. The Holiday Pack is available now, including the MLS home opener, the CCL match, and the second MLS home match of the season.
Player Profile Series
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- Pedro Vite reflects on lessons learnt following first full season in Vancouver
- Déiber Caicedo primed to "come back stronger" in 2023
- Isaac Boehmer thankful for experience gained in 2022
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