Vancouver Whitecaps take Western Conference lead: "We are the best Canadian team"


Last week, Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Vanni Sartini compared his team’s first-half performance in a 3-2 derby win over the Portland Timbers to the Italian city of Florence, his wife and socialism – three representations, in his mind, of peak beauty.

But he’d like to amend that statement. Because the Whitecaps' 4-0 victory Saturday evening over Canadian rival Toronto FC was even better than Matchday 7's Cascadia Cup triumph.

“It's really hard to find something to top [last week’s win], but we did it, so it was my mistake,” said Sartini after his side’s dominant performance at BC Place. “Being a socialist, I should have known that we always look for the utopia, and we always march towards the utopia, and everything can be better in order to reach the utopia. So let's say that we are going there."

Vancouver's emphatic win launches them into first place in the Western Conference, relatively new territory for a club that hasn’t finished higher than sixth place in the West since 2017.

They've also got a game in hand on the West's respective second and third-place teams, the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake.

“It's beautiful. I'm actually thinking about quitting my job and resigning so I can say that we were first when I was there,” Sartini joked, later adding: “It's amazing to be on top of the standings, also because we deserve it... We are doing really well, but at the same time, we realize that harder things are coming because now we're no longer just the nice Canadian kids, but we are the team that is at the top.”

Canada's best

Speaking of “Canadian kids,” Sartini made a point to get his collection of players hailing from the Toronto area on the pitch. That way they could show their hometown club, who, in his estimation, passed on each player’s service at one time or another, what they were missing.

“I put all the Canadians in the second half because I know that they had an extra motivation, an extra kick, especially Ralph \[Priso\], Levy \[Johnson\], Ryan Raposo, Ali \[Ahmed\]. They're all Toronto boys, and Toronto FC overlooked [them], we have to be honest,” Sartini explained.

Those weren’t Sartini’s last verbal shots fired at Vancouver's Canadian rivals: “We showed that we are the best Canadian team and we've been the best Canadian team for the last two, three years.

“I don't know why we need to remind it every time, but it's true. It's by far the truth and I'm really happy that we did it again. So I hope that this also goes to our Canadian media, to OneSoccer or whatever, just to know that we are the best and, like, deservedly so.”

Despite the confidence, Sartini knows tough challenges lie ahead, particularly with the Galaxy, likely extra motivated coming off an El Tráfico loss to LAFC, visiting BC Place next Saturday (10:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

Ever the believer in collective spirit, he’ll be leaning on his team’s unity and depth to lead the way: "We are a team with 20, 18, 19, 20 players and everyone needs to be an integral part of the project. Everyone needs to be a guy that puts myself a little bit in trouble on Thursday and Friday when I have to understand the best lineup for the next game.”

After all, it'll take near perfection to stay No. 1 in the West.

"To go from eighth [place] to fifth [place], maybe sometimes you can even miss a game and everything," said Sartini. "When you're on top, in order to stay on top, you need to win every game."