Vancouver Whitecaps FC were staring down a potentially dreary spell just three weeks ago. With only one victory away from BC Place up to that point, the Cascadian club was about to embark on a seven-match road trip.
But four matches in, all is going well for Vanni Sartini’s side.
“So far, so good. We started the decisive seven games in the best way possible,” the Whitecaps' head coach told reporters following the club’s 2-1 comeback win over Canadian rivals Toronto FC Saturday night.
The Matchday 32 victory means Vancouver have earned 10 out of 12 points to begin their road swing (3W-0L-1D) and have reached fourth in the Western Conference table, well into an Audi MLS Cup Playoffs spot. If the playoffs were to begin today, they’d have home-field advantage in Round One.
So, what’s clicked?
“It’s more sticking to the plan, being confident that we have a very good team,” said Sartini. “I’m really, really, really happy [because of] what I’m seeing now [in terms of] the quality on the field, and I’m really looking forward. We have a new player, Junior Hoilett, who just joined the team … so I think the future is bright.”
Along with Hoilett, fellow Canadian international Sam Adekugbe and Designated Player Andrés Cubas were among those missing for Vancouver in Toronto, while regular starter Pedro Vite was only fit enough to make the bench. Despite being shorthanded, the Whitecaps still managed to find a way to grind out a result.
“I think it speaks to the strength of the squad. We’ve got a starting XI that leaves out a player like Pedro, that shows how good and how competitive our squad is,” said midfielder Ryan Gauld post-game.
The Whitecaps are more than halfway through their road voyage, and although things have gone to plan so far, they’re well aware that it’s not about to get any easier. Up next is a Wednesday trip to Shell Energy Stadium to face red-hot Houston Dynamo FC (8:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).
“It’s not only playing Wednesday, Saturday, and traveling, it’s also playing in Houston where it’s going to be hot and humid, and then the next game is in altitude [at Real Salt Lake], and then the next game is even more in altitude [at Colorado Rapids]," concluded Sartini.
"So, it looks like we are in a video game and every game is a different level – it’s more difficult, and more difficult and more difficult. I’m Italian, so I’m thinking about Mario, so let’s arrive at the princess at the end; that’s qualification of the playoffs and [finishing] top four."
After narrowly missing out on the playoffs one year ago, the Whitecaps are on the verge of completing their best season in club history. Will they continue their fairy-tale run and become legitimate MLS Cup threats?