Strap yourselves in, this is a long one.
After giving everyone hope with inspiring performances that maybe could have pronounced a second postseason run in as many years, the Whitecaps ended the season in the way many were expecting: underwhelming. I think the biggest crime about the performance on Sunday was the fact that they didn’t play awful, rather they just played passable. The lack of urgency and atmosphere of defeatism after conceding first is a symptom of a team that is missing a belief in themselves and the project around them.
There’s much more to be said about the season as a whole, but we’ll keep the focus on the players that were on the field until the end, where I’ll give an overall review of the season.
Thomas Hasal: 5.5
Thomas Hasal has improved from the start of the season but on the night he just wasn’t up to the standard many expected of him. It’s become increasingly obvious that while Hasal is good, there is a vast sea of difference between him and Maxime Crepeau. This was a fact only compounded by the fact that his opposite, Dayne St. Clair, was having a great game on top of already showing why he should be considered as a strong third choice contender or the CANMNT. Goalkeeper will be a position to look into going into the offseason.
Luis Martins: 6.0
Luis Martins is a useful asset for the Whitecaps’ lineup. He is a defender who plays the ball up and is primarily able to defend his position with relative ease. His underlying stats coming in were a little worrisome especially after sorely missing Gutierrez for the past season, but Martins currently has had a run of good performances that will hopefully become standard for him.
Ranko Veselinovic: 5.5
Ranko put in a shift today, but I can’t be inclined to score either of the central defenders any more than this considering how both of Minnesota’s goals were scored. The lack of marking on the first was inexcusable, and the second, while Ranko did get a foot on it, he didn’t put enough force on it to prevent it from bouncing into the center and leading to the second.
Tristan Blackmon: 5.5
Blackmon was more of the same. Both of the goals basically came from the center and the marking was atrocious from both of the central defenders.
Jake Nerwinski: 5.5
Decent Nerwinski display, not helped out at all by the fact that the defense was completely disorganized. Overall, he was the weak link in the defense and was the first to be taken off, but the goals were not his fault.
Andres Cubas: 6.0
Filtering every ball through Cubas is a strategy that’s worked many times before, but as was seen in the game, when it is exploited, the Whitecaps tower of cards fell right over. All it took was for him to be stripped of the ball by a Minnesota player and suddenly there were acres of space for the Minnesota United players to run into and score, which of course, they did. Outside of that, it was a decent display, but Cubas couldn’t do much without midfield support.
Russel Teibert: 5.5
Following up on that, Teibert also put in a middling performance, which is not ideal. Even when Teibert at his best is sometimes struggling to catch up with the pace of MLS 3.0 and looked commanding only when playing against CPL teams in the Voyageur’s Cup. What made it worse, is that tempo immediately increased when he was replaced by Owusu, and more chances were being seen by the entire team.
Julian Gressel: 5.5
Gressel looked off the mark today, tired or just not interested in securing playoffs for himself and the team. He is undoubtedly one of the Whitecaps’ top players, and should have been a bigger threat to Minnesota but it just wasn’t shown on the day. It’s unfortunate but hopefully isn’t a sign of anything about his resolve to play in Vancouver (Something definitely affecting the mentality of other players).
Ryan Gauld: 6.0
Ryan Gauld again set the standard, but frustration got the best of him this game. Whether it’s the lack of support or drive of the team is up to anyone’s guess, but his passes were often coming short or being wasted by the teammates receiving them. It was a good performance that cooled off near the end, as the inevitability of the closing of the Whitecaps’ season sank in.
Pedro Vite: 5.5
Vite plays well in the position he best excels at. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one such of those cases. He is best utilized as an attacking midfielder, which explained why he dropped back so much but at striker he just wasn’t having the impact desired. Again, I think a matter of support was the problem as his passes weren’t always the best since he either had to wait for an option or pass backwards out of danger.
Brian White: 5.5
White has definitely cooled off since his stellar season last year, and just hasn’t had the bite necessary to become a difference in games such as this. Not really much to say other than he needs to find his mojo soon in order to stay as a reliable contributor for the Whitecaps going forwards.
Lucas Cavallini: 6.0
This game was missing some bite and grit and that’s exactly what Cavallini brought. He had many good chances in the start, and if one were to have gone in, I have full faith that the overall effort of the match would have been a different story. Unluckily, much like Gauld, it seemed that Cavallini fell into the hopelessness the rest of the team was feeling early on, and only more so when the second goal was finally scored.
Leonard Owusu: 6.0
Owusu brought on the tempo that was needed in the second half, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to inspire the team to a comeback, much less a victory. He was critically underused this season and hopefully either the team plays him more next season or finds someone who can fairly warrant playing more minutes than him.
Crisitan Dajome: 5.5
Dajome’s stock has dramatically plummeted this season. From a genuine threat down the flanks, Dajome is now simply reduced as a player to gets into the box but can’t make up his mind on what to do. He has had a negligible to negative impact on the games he has participated in. Whether this is a coaching issue or being played out of position, it’s yet to be seen, but at this point it would be good to cut the losses and find another team for him.
Tossaint Ricketts: N/A
Toss came in at the end, but wasn’t able to make a considerable mark on the game.
Overall Season Rating: 6.0
Over the past ten seasons, the Whitecaps have averaged a position of 7th and 44 pts, with an average of 44 goals scored, and 49 goals conceded. Whenever they go positive in goal differential, they do so very close to the median, yet most of the time when they are negative, the numbers are staggering, reaching up to -22 goal differential at some low points. This puts the Whitecaps’ record this season of 9th place, 43 points, and 40 goals scored with 57 conceded at a painfully below average position in that respect.
The score would have been lower had the Whitecaps not won the Canadian Championship, but overall, the Whitecaps played a frustrating style this season. A chance at playoffs may have made it look like there was something positive under the surface but recent seasons have convinced many that an average record should be worth celebrating, as the standards and expectations set by Dos Santos make anything outside of a dumpster fire seem like the cream of the crop. Even if the Whitecaps had made the playoffs, they still would have more than likely ended below average on goals scored and only barely above average on points earned. Given those state, the Whitecaps were expected to lose a LOT more games than they did, there is a degree of luck involved in papering over the issues that truly plague the team. A playoff entry would have only hidden the fact that this in fact was a decent step back from the previous season across various metrics.
The Whitecaps have had a penchant for hiring managers that like to play a certain way- and even more so in recent years accepting assistant managers as suitable to handle the Whitecaps first team. This isn’t to knock on Dos Santos or Sartini, but more so the organization as a whole’s tolerance for mediocrity just getting by. The laissez-faire attitude that the Whitecaps had when hiring Marc dos Santos could not have come at a worse time, as the MLS experienced a boom in quality during his first year in charge. This period saw the inclusion of players such as Ibrahimovic, Rooney, Nani, Schweinsteiger, Vela, Martinez, Ruidiaz, Alejandro Pozuelo alongside many others which raised the standard of the league exponentially. These players raised the bar of what an acceptable performance in MLS is and most of the league had to hustle to catch up. The Whitecaps did not have the coaching, nor the signings necessary for that, and as a result, they were left in the dust.
This was increasingly obvious in the next two seasons as the bar had already been set and the unwillingness to move on from Dos Santos’ rigid system led to his sacking after losing to a CPL team for the second time in a row. Couple this with the rebelious attitude that many players had, something bleeding over from Robinson’s time, and it felt like the frustrations of the coach were taken out on players and creating a vicious cycle of distrust between locker room staff and players on the field.
Why am I brining up a coach that doesn’t even manage us anymore? I think we are falling in the same trap with Sartini. He has done a fine job so far, definitely an improvement over Dos Santos, but his credentials were much fewer and the looming threat of the 2026 World Cup, and the influx of players the MLS will be bringing in trying to increase exposure to their league in tandem, spells out a future that could be passing Sartini by. There were limitations in Dos Santos’ game, one could clearly tell, but at the very least he was able to change formations and apply different, if ineffective, tactics on the field. Sartini is a very easy read, it doesn’t take much with the eye test to figure out how the team plays. With both coaches having work-ethic focused attaitiude, it may be a good look for fans, but positivity can only push performances so far.
The Whitecaps have yet to fnd a system that players have truly bought into, and much of their sucess over the last two season has leaned on the work of their star players. This is a unsustainable form of playing. Sartini is trying a European system that doesn’t necessarily fit in with the profile MLS teams are building, while Dos Santos’ vision was probably better suited for lower leagues.
There is an undeniable shift in focus towards young CONCACAF and CONMEBOL players across the league, leading many teams to adopt a playstyle matching that of South America or even our Liga MX neighbours. As such, being able to hire a coach that has had experience in those leagues, in my view, is paramount for the Whitecaps to have success.
As things stand, that is not what Sartini is, and the players, I think, can sense it. Hopefully, Sartini can develop a system and direction for his team to buy into and believe in, otherwise the Whitecaps should take that shortlist they were looking at closely after Dos Santos’ dismissal and evaluate possible changes to be made.