VANCOUVER — It's been a tumultuous few weeks for the Vancouver Whitecaps and their latest acquisition, Scottish star Ryan Gauld.
There were complicated negotiations combined with travel woes and COVID-19 restrictions.
“It seemed like every obstacle that could come in the way happened, from not being on flights to quarantine and getting the work permit and stuff," Gauld said Tuesday at Vancouver's picturesque training centre. "It was a tough couple of weeks, but thankfully, everything’s taken care of now.”
Navigating those obstacles was tricky, he admitted.
“But it never entered my head that it was a sign that I was making the wrong decision," Gauld said. "And I’ve seen since I arrived, especially here in Vancouver, that I’ve 100 per cent made the right decision.”
The club confirmed the long-rumoured signing of the 25-year-old attacking midfielder on Saturday, bringing him to Major League Soccer on a three-year designated player contract.
The native of Aberdeen spent last season playing for Portuguese side Farnese where he tallied nine goals and seven assists in 33 games, led the team in scoring and ranked sixth in Primeira Liga in assists.
Vancouver began its pursuit of the creative play maker — dubbed "McMessi" by some international press — in January.
The 'Caps have long been searching for a player who could link the back end with the attack and, in Gauld, saw an athlete who would provide a lasting impact, sporting director Axel Schuster said.
“We were looking not for a signing that helps us only for a few games, we were not looking for a player that maybe helps us to get a few more points in those games that we have been close," he said. "We were looking for the player that helps us to make the next step."
After coming up through Dundee United's youth system and a stint at Sporting Lisbon, Gauld chose to jump to MLS based on his conversations with Schuster and 'Caps head coach Marc Dos Santos.
"I've never been one to make my decisions over money. I've always thought there's more to a career and more to life than money," he said. "What it was, was the confidence that everyone at the club that I'd spoke to showed and how much they wanted me, what they thought I could do here, what I could bring to the club."
Vancouver is somewhere he can see himself continuing to progress as a player, Gauld added.
It's a process Gauld said began in Portugal after a series of unsuccessful loans, with the experience making him realize that he needed to work even harder.
"On a professional and personal level, Portugal definitely helped me grow," he said.
When the Whitecaps approached him, Gauld reached out to his countryman Johnny Russell, who's spent the last four seasons with Sporting Kansas City.
The Scottish winger had great things to say about the MLS, the Whitecaps and Vancouver, Gauld said.
Now, the 'Caps newest player is experiencing all three for himself. He trained with his new teammates in Vancouver for the first time on Monday and Dos Santos said he fit in well.
“I think he had fun out there and I think he enjoyed everything about the session," the coach said.
The Whitecaps got off to a rocky start this season and currently sit second-last in the Western Conference with a 3-7-6 record. But the squad has taken points from six of its last seven outings and is unbeaten in its last four games.
Vancouver will face a tough test on Sunday when it takes on the Galaxy (9-6-1) in L.A.
Whether Gauld could figure in that matchup remains to be seen. Dos Santos said he has a "good idea" of when the club's newest addition will make his debut, but declined to reveal what the date might be.
Whenever he does see some action, Gauld believes his creative side will help create scoring chances.
“Whenever I play, I leave everything I can on the pitch. And I’ll give everything I’ve got to the team," he said.
Dos Santos said he likes that Gauld is a player who's always looking for the ball and isn't afraid to get between the lines, but he isn't expecting him to turn the 'Caps season around single handed.
Instead of being "the guy," Gauld is part of the team's process, Dos Santos said.
"We don’t want him to come here with the pressure with being a kind of a saviour," the coach said. "Because that doesn’t exist in soccer."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2021.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press