Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Brian White has been a revelation since arriving via trade from the New York Red Bulls back in June, amassing 12 goals and five assists in 27 games while helping spearhead the club's second-half surge into the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The 25-year-old joined The Call Up's latest episode to discuss what sparked Vancouver's ascent from a Western Conference afterthought into a Round One game on Nov. 20 at Sporting Kansas City (5 pm ET | UniMás, MLSsoccer.com & App, TUDN). To hear White tell it, a fair amount was simply returning to Canada after the club temporarily relocated to Real Salt Lake's stadium due to cross-border travel restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think a big part of it was being able to come to BC Place," White told co-hosts Susannah Collins and Jillian Sakovits. "When I got traded we were still in Salt Lake, so I went for two months and knew we were eventually going to come here. Finally having a place to call home, having fans in the stands and having them there I think was a big momentum shift for us. When we were in Salt Lake the stadium was pretty much empty so it was tough."
The Call Up: Brian White on Whitecaps and Vanni Sartini
That wasn't the only factor at play, of course.
Along with stumping for teammate Ryan Gauld for MLS Newcomer of the Year honors, White credited interim manager Vanni Sartini for instilling belief in the squad. Sartini has become a popular figure on MLS social media for his fiery locker room speeches and his heart-on-his-sleeve persona. The Italian's enthusiasm manifests itself in how the Whitecaps play, White said.
"I think pretty much what you see is what you get, even behind closed doors," White said of Sartini. "He's very exuberant, he's very excited and he's really fun to play for because you see the energy, the emotion he puts into it. He puts belief and passion into those speeches, so it really makes it easy for guys to go out and give their all for him. I think you can see that when we go out and play. To get these results against some of these bigger top-of-the-table teams has been a clear picture of what he's been able to do with us."
As for whether Sartini gets the full-time role for 2022, White said he isn't privy to any inside information on that topic. But based on how things have gone under his watch, White feels a longer runout would be met with open arms.
"I think we all love playing for Vanni. I think it shows by the way we play on the field, the results we're able to get," said White. "And so should the club decide to keep him as the full-time manager, I think everyone on the team would be excited to have him because it's been great playing with him and we've all enjoyed it a lot."
For White's full interview, check out The Call Up's latest episode here.