Vancouver Whitecaps FC are one of five clubs yet to record a point in regular-season play through MLS Matchday 2, but you wouldn't have known it from watching their electric display at BC Place on Wednesday evening.
Playing their Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 opener against Honduran outfit Real España, the Whitecaps put on a show for the home crowd, eventually taking an emphatic 5-0 result that puts them right on the precipice of the quarterfinals in the prestigious continental tournament. They'll take that commanding aggregate advantage into Leg 2 of the series in San Pedro Sula on March 15 (6 pm ET | FS2, TUDN).
"It does a lot [for our confidence]," head coach Vanni Sartini said after the match. "Of course, we were coming from two performances where one was very good, one okay, but we didn't harvest anything. So, it gives confidence again. It gives a little smile again to everyone."
The lopsided scoreline was certainly cathartic for Vancouver after the rough start to their 2023 campaign, which saw them take one-goal defeats to Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes. But equally encouraging for Sartini was the manner in which the barrage of goals on Wednesday finally arrived.
Four different players found the scoresheet for the 'Caps, who were also the beneficiaries of a 64th-minute own goal. Two defenders got in on the action in center back Tristan Blackmon and left back Ryan Raposo (who also had an assist in his Man of the Match performance), while midfielder Pedro Vite and forward Brian White logged the insurance goals.
The end result was the first five-goal performance since Sartini took over as head coach, a milestone that had the Italian manager feeling optimistic his side can build off the effort going forward both in CCL and league play.
"In the year-and-a-half tenure that I've had, we've never scored five goals, this is the first time," Sartini said. "The fact that a lot of players who arrived [in the offseason] had chances, it means that we are there. We saw even against Salt Lake here, a lot of players had great chances... So, that's kind of hopefully the idea: we arrived and created in that position because of the way of playing, it’s not about relying on one player to make the magic."
A five-goal lead might seem insurmountable for Real España on paper, but Sartini said his team can't afford to treat it as such ahead of Leg 2, with the knowledge that anything can happen in a CCL road match.
"We need to plan a half at a time," Sartini said. "The first half will be let's try to win in San Pedro Sula. And then we can talk about game management in the second half down there if things hopefully are going in the right direction. But for sure we won't make the mistake of underestimating their team because soccer is a crazy game. So, we'll go there with the best lineup possible... We'll bring all the team and now the objective is now to reach the quarterfinals.
"Qualification is not reached but, of course, it's much better to go there with a five-goal advantage and I would say enormously in charge of our destiny."