'I don't see why not!': Ryan Gauld leaves CanMNT door open as Whitecaps form soars
As he settles into his third season with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Ryan Gauld is pleased with where he’s at right now.
A crucial piece on a rapidly-improving side, there’s no doubting Gauld’s importance to this Whitecaps team, one that has big ambitions in 2023.
Yet, while Gauld remains central to those efforts on the pitch, now up to an impressive 14 goals and 14 assists in 58 games since joining the Whitecaps in 2021, that’s also been helped by the comfort that he’s been able to find off the pitch since joining the club.
An easygoing individual, he’s quickly adapted to his new lifestyle over on the west coast, one that has suited his calm nature.
As a result, it has made what could’ve been a stressful move across the globe a lot easier to manage, allowing him to hit the ground running with the Whitecaps since day one.
“Yeah, everything’s been really good so far,” Gauld explained to OneSoccer this week. “Settling into the city has been really easy, it’s a lovely city, a great place to live, and here at the club, everything’s been taken care of, I’ve been really well looked after, very well received since arriving, so there are zero complaints to be made from me.”
Because of that, the Whitecaps have been able to make some huge strides forward since his arrival.
In 2021, they were a middling team, one that was just starting to come together as a group, but was still missing a final piece. As a result, they entered the year with an open designated player spot, one that they intended to fill with a creative attacking midfielder.
And after a lengthy search, they then identified Gauld to be that piece, after he had just put up a season to remember in Portugal’s first division with SC Farense, where he scored nine goals and seven assists despite playing for a relegation-bound side.
Turns out, it ended up being a pretty perfect match, too. After a mixed start to 2021, where the team was in mixed form in MLS, and suffered a tough upset to CPL side and provincial rivals Pacific FC in the Canadian Championship, Gauld’s arrival helped the team mount a late push to the playoffs, making it back to that stage for the first time since 2017.
Then, in 2022, although they ended up just missing the playoffs by a couple of points, Gauld helped the team avenge some demons in the Canadian Championship, winning the tournament MVP as the team won its first trophy since 2015.
As a result, they now find themselves in a good spot in 2023, currently playing in the CONCACAF Champions League as a reward for that Canadian Championship crown, while also playing some of the best soccer in MLS that they’ve ever played.
Because of that, they’re now getting set for arguably their biggest game in over a half-decade, when they’ll take on 2022 MLS Cup and Supporters Shield winners, and 2020 CONCACAF Champions League finalists, LAFC, in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
After cruising through Honduran side Real CD España in the Round of 16 on an aggregate score of 7-3, it’s a huge test, as LAFC are arguably the tournament favourites, making this a huge opportunity for them.
Yet, it’s one that Gauld is relishing. Playing some of his best soccer, and with a strong team around him that has gelled nicely as the year has gone along, they feel that they can leave their mark in this tie, and are eager to prove that, starting this week in leg 1.
“Yeah, obviously everyone here can’t wait to play these couple of games that we’ve got,” Gauld explained. “Going up against Real CD España was going into a little bit of an unknown, as we didn’t know much about them. But it’s not like that with LAFC, as we see them every week, I’ve played against them a few times, so we’re just looking forward to it.”
“We’re definitely in a good position, we’ve got a strong team as we’ve shown in a few of our performances from the opening games. So we’re positive going into it, we’re not just here to make up the numbers, we said it last year after winning the Canadian Championship, we don’t want to be a part of the Champions League just for the sake of it, we want to prove how good of a team we are. And there’s no better way to prove it than to go out and get a result against LAFC.”
But that just shows the confidence that Gauld currently has, as he’s really relishing the opportunity to be a key part of this Vancouver side.
In the prime of his career at 27 years of age, he has come a long way from the young kid that he was a decade ago, who burst onto the scene as a teenager in Scotland.
Once dubbed the “Scottish Messi”, as many expected him to be Scotland’s saviour, that pressure ended up getting to him for a good chunk of his career, as he just tried to keep up with the lofty expectations that others had set for him.
Now, however, he’s enjoying playing his soccer, and is doing so on his own terms. He knows that others will always have big expectations for him, but that the most important person for him to listen to is himself, making it important to block out the noise.
And seeing how good he’s been for the Whitecaps, you can see that approach has paid off for him. One of the best players in MLS since his arrival, he’s been playing the best soccer of his career, and is doing so with a smile on his face, something that his younger self might not have ever expected him to be able to one day say he could do.
“Yeah, looking back, it wasn’t the most enjoyable playing with that pressure, but it’s made me grow as a player and as a person,” Gauld admitted. “So when I reflect on it, I feel like it’s benefitted me in the long run, especially more personally than on the pitch.”
“But I just try to take each game as it comes, I try to play my best, and I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can when I’m playing, because I believe that’s when you see the best from people, when they’re in a good place in their lives and happy with the football that they’re playing, they’re going to perform best.”
Because of that, Gauld is excited about what the future holds. Just taking things one game at a time, he is eager to achieve lots of success with this Whitecaps side, with whom he’s signed through 2024.
From there, he knows that the rest of the pieces will fall into place. For example, one such goal is playing internationally.
Despite having over 20 caps at the youth level for Scotland, he hasn’t played for their senior team, something that is quite surprising given how good he’s been since his Farense days.
It’s something that he’s long desired, noting last year to the Scottish Sun that “if it happens, that’s great”, but it’s also something that he knows that he has no control over, also noting that “it doesn’t enter his mind” anymore.
Because of that, if Scotland continues to ignore Gauld, it could stand to make things interesting for his future, especially if he sticks around in Vancouver past the end of his original contract.
There, sometime around the end of 2025 or beginning of 2026, he’d cross the threshold set by FIFA that would allow him to play for Canada, who as some may know, is getting set to host a World Cup in 2026, one that they’ve already qualified for.
All of a sudden, that could give him a chance to not just play internationally, but at a World Cup (which Scotland hasn’t done since 1998), should Canada want him to join their ranks.
Of course, that last big point is key, as Canada is a growing team, but there’s no doubt that a player of Gauld’s quality could always be an interesting option to consider down the road, especially given that Canada hasn’t always been proficient at producing attacking midfielders in his mould.
And for what it’s worth, it’s something that Gauld is open to. A lot can change between now and then, but having seen Scottish players of Canadian heritage such as David Wotherspoon and Scott Arfield choose Canada over Scotland and immensely enjoy the experience, Gauld admits that is something that could make a potential decision interesting.
So although he’s focused on the here and now, starting with LAFC in the Champions League, that he’s open to such an opportunity is quite interesting, and is certainly something to monitor as he continues to shine for Vancouver.
“I think that’s a conversation to be had when the time comes, but I don’t see why not if the opportunity did arise,” Gauld admitted. “Guys like Wotherspoon and Arfield grasped that chance, and I’m sure they’re delighted with the decision that they made. I think it’s still a couple of years away, though, so there’s not too much point looking too far forward, just yet.”
The Whitecaps kick off vs. LAFC tonight (PRE-SHOW: 9:30PM ET / 6:30PM PT) on OneSoccer.
- - Settling into Vancouver
- - Big year for Whitecaps
- - Becoming a leader
- - Growth in MLS
- - Taking on LAFC in SCCL
- - Whitecaps' SCCL chance
- - Champions League pedigree
- - Overcoming pressure
- - Canadians in Scotland
- - Gauld for CanMNT?