Hitting the playoff race, the Whitecaps are rekindling Julian Grisel's fire

Hitting the playoff race, the Whitecaps are rekindling Julian Grisel’s fire

Having something to play for again was Julian Grisel’s passion for football.

The Vancouver Whitecaps acquired the wingback from DC United in late July. Greisel went from a United team with the worst record in Major League Soccer to a Vancouver side in the midst of a battle for a playoff spot.

“To have really meaningful games to end the season, that’s what you want,” said Grisel, drenched in sweat after a training session under the hot sun this week. “In D.C., it would have taken a miracle for us to make the playoffs. Here, it’s in our hands.

“We take care of our business, we can do it. This kind of totally brings back that fire and that energy. It’s definitely a different feeling.”

The Whitecaps will be looking to get back into the playoff line when they host Nashville FC at BC Place Stadium on Saturday night.

Entering the weekend, Nashville (9-9-9) was sixth in the Western Conference with 36 points.

The Whitecaps (9-11-7) were eighth, but tied for the title on 34 points with the LA Galaxy, who currently hold the seventh and final playoff spot. The Galaxy have one win and two games in hand over Vancouver but have played three fewer away games.

Just four points separate Nashville from 11th-place Colorado in the tight West standings.

Born in Germany, the six-foot-one, 185-pound Grisel attended Providence College. Atlanta United selected him in the 2017 SuperDraft. Grisel helped Atlanta win the MLS Cup in 2018.

Known for his vision and ability to distribute the ball, Grisel is one of the league’s best chance creators and crossers. He has 20 goals and 59 assists in 177 games.

“It’s been a trademark for me in this league to set up guys a lot and create goals, create chances,” he said. “I want to do it here.

“That’s why they traded for me to have an impact on the score sheet, to create chances going forward and at the same time do my job defensively.”

Since arriving in Vancouver, Greisel has had a nice steal, then set up Ryan Gould’s first two goals in a 2-1 home win over Colorado on August 17th.

Last Saturday, Grisel scored his first MLS header in the 87th minute to salvage a 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake and claim an important away point.

Vancouver coach Vinny Sartini said Grisel adds a new dimension to the Whitecaps attack.

“It brings a different quality to being a winger,” Sartini said. “Julian brings an aggressive quality in passing and shooting from distance that other wing-backs lacked.”

Grisel is also applicable. He can play either side of the back and move into midfield.

“For me to get into a different position, I think it shows that I’ve adapted very well to the tactical system and Vinnie trusts me in different places,” he said.

He joins Tosaint Ricketts (Toronto, 2017) and Sebastian Berhalter (Columbus, 2020) as the only Whitecaps to win an MLS title.

“He knows how to win,” Sartini said. “He knows how to lead a winning team in training sessions. That kind of experience helps other players.

Nashville has just two wins in its last eight games (2-3-3) but has the league’s most dangerous goal scorer in Honey Mokhtar. He comes into the weekend tied for second in MLS with 16 goals.

“They have dangerous guys who can change a game in an instant,” Gressel said. “Tactically, they have a really clear identity. They have quality and a clear way of playing.

“It will be a tough game. Hopefully we can come out on top. We can have moments of success in our team that put us over the edge.

NASHVILLE SC (9-9-9) at VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (9-11-7)

BC Place Stadium, Saturday, 10 pm ET

INJURY REPORT: Vancouver forward Deborah Caicedo is out for the season after undergoing meniscus surgery in her right knee.

First time: This will be Nashville’s first trip to BC Place Stadium. The Caps settled for a 1-1 tie in Nashville on July 30.

Best for last: Grisel’s 87th-minute goal in a 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake on Aug. 19. It was the ninth time the Whitecaps scored in or after the 86th minute this season to tie or go ahead. . Vancouver has collected an MLS-high 14 points on goals in the final five minutes this season.

As good as Gould: When Gould scored the equalizer against Real Salt Lake it was the White Caps’ third straight goal involving the midfielder (two goals, one assist). Gould has assisted on nine of Vancouver’s last 12 MLS goals (four goals, five assists).

Handi Hani: Mukhtar had a goal and an assist in Nashville’s 4-0 win over Dallas on Sunday. Mukhtar has scored 25 goals this year, 16 of them and nine assists. It was also his fourth game with three assists this season.

WOMEN’S NIGHT: As part of the Whitecaps celebration of women and girls in sport on Saturday, three women will be part of the action team. Felisha Mariscal and Meghan Mullen will be the assistant referees while Carol Ann Chanard will be the video assistant referee.

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