And the Italian manager took much of the blame for an “unacceptable” showing where the visitors scored three times inside 50 minutes at BC Place, plus star striker Lucas Cavallini was shown a straight red card in the 53rd minute for a stomp on Nashville wingback Alex Muyl's head behind the play.
Now, with six games remaining in their 2022 season and finishing Week 27 below the Western Conference’s Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line, Vancouver have reached an inflection point.
“I think that before talking about the playoffs, it's talking about our honor as a team, it’s talking about our self-respect as a team,” Sartini said postgame. “We have six games to show that this one was probably the worst night in the season and we are better.
“At this moment, today then tomorrow of course I'm going to talk about points, I'm thinking about points and how many points we need to make. At this moment I don't even care about the playoffs. I care about having a team next week in San Jose that is much better than the team that we were now because today was a shame, and we need to apologize to our fans.”
Vancouver are potentially one win away from vaulting back into the West’s top-seven postseason places, with the field around them jam-packed. They’ll next travel to the Earthquakes (Sept. 4) and Colorado Rapids (Sept. 10), two conference foes beneath them and where points will be at a premium.
One starting point, according to midseason trade acquisition Julian Gressel, is more intensity and focus from the opening whistle.
“We can't keep digging ourselves in holes and try to crawl out of them the last 45, 50, 60 minutes,” the former D.C. United wingback said. “That's very difficult to do, especially the later it gets in the season and we have six games left.
“I mean there's nothing to lose now for us. We have to, more so, play for our pride, play for our fans because again I think they just, they do deserve better, especially at home here.”
In 2021, Vancouver enjoyed a magical late-season run when Sartini took over for now-LAFC assistant coach Marc Dos Santos. They surged into the West’s No. 6 seed before falling at Sporting Kansas City in Round One of the playoffs, amassing loads of momentum as the fall rolled around.
Star midfielder Ryan Gauld said Vancouver can take inspiration from that run, possibly salvaging their 2022 postseason hopes.
“I think if we're going to have a chance of making the playoffs now, in the last six games, we're going to have to get probably four wins, I would say,” the Scottsman outlined. “ … We need to get back to doing what we were doing last year and making this a difficult place to come, because I don't think teams at the moment are thinking, ‘Oh no, we have to go to Vancouver' like they were last year, which, you know, it's our own fault.”
The time for correcting mistakes is narrowing, but Sartini said the turnaround must start immediately.
“We need to work on our pride, to restore our pride and be proud of ourselves, doing everything in the next six games, everything that we can,” Sartini said. “If we can't make [playoffs] okay, but at least we [don’t] want to be thinking about okay we gave up. It looks today that we were giving up, and that is unacceptable to be honest.”
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