Don't look now, but Vancouver Whitecaps FC are just outside the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line.
After a statement 2-0 win at FC Dallas on Saturday night, the Whitecaps are tied on points with Seattle Sounders FC for seventh place in the Western Conference standings (two more games played). With manager Vanni Sartini at the helm, like in the club's 2021 late-season playoff charge, they're once again proving how dangerous it can be to rush to judgment on a team in Major League Soccer.
WATCH: Déjà vu as Vancouver Whitecaps beat FC Dallas to continue rise
It would be kind to call Vancouver's start to the season "slow". The Whitecaps won just one of their first nine matches, hampered by injuries and a defense that conceded three or more goals on five occasions.
A switch flipped in early May, aided by a return of some of those sidelined early on. They've won seven of their last 10 matches in all competitions and have taken a league-leading 16 points in MLS play. Playing on the road against a strong FC Dallas side that's now fourth in the West, Saturday's result might have been the most impressive yet.
"I think the guys stepped up in terms of concentration, in terms of approach," said Sartini after the match. "Let's say the proof of that is that we scored after like 90 seconds or something like this. We were concentrated the entire game. ... So it's a clear victory. It's against a very good team. So yeah, top result away."
It took just two minutes for the Whitecaps to take the lead in Dallas, with Lucas Cavallini pouncing on a scuffed clearance to find the net for the fifth time in 2022. Just before the break, Déiber Caicedo got his first of the year with a stunning free kick.
It's the latest in a long string of positive results against Dallas, with Vancouver's last loss against the Texas side coming in September 2018. Since then, Vancouver have won four of six matches, including a 2-1 win at BC Place a month ago.
"This result is a big one for us," said midfielder Andres Cubas, who got his first start in a Vancouver shirt after being acquired for a reported $3.25 million from French club Nimes. "It gives us a lot of motivation to keep going and it's a big three points."
The result was also a perfect bounce-back from the bump in the road Vancouver encountered in their last MLS match (a 4-0 loss at Seattle midweek), and gives them much-needed momentum heading into a Canadian Championship semifinal clash with the CPL's York United on Wednesday night (10 pm ET | OneSoccer). With just two games separating them from potential silverware and a playoff spot to fight for, it's been a remarkable turnaround.
Sartini summed it up best after the match.
"What can you ask more?," the Italian coach posed.