It’s the first full season of the Vanni Sartini era for the Vancouver Whitecaps. An otherwise uneventful offseason was marred by the surprise departure of Maxime Crepeau, but outside of that event, this is a team doubling down on their late-season heroics from 2021 as a marker of things to come in 2022.
This is part of a broader series across all of SB Nation’s MLS communities, so if you want to get caught up on some of the others teams around the league, be sure to check out their season previews as well.
2021 Record: 12W - 13D - 9L, 6th in the West, 45GF - 45GA, 49 Points. Lost in the first round of the MLS Playoffs to SKC.
Head Coach: Vanni Sartini
Key additions: Tristan Blackmon
Key losses: Maxime Crepeau, Janio Bikel
Projected Best XI:
I know that Vanni Sartini has talked about moving to three in the middle of the park, as well as the possibility of using Cristian Dajome as a wingback. However, I won’t be surprised if this is still the best way the Whitecaps can set up. Dajome has to be a key secondary contributor for Vancouver if they want to be a top team in the West, and he thrived in the false nine position near the end of last year.
Best offseason move: In many ways, the best offseason move was not making too many changes. Having a full preseason with a consistent roster and coaching staff is more than could have been said of many recent Whitecaps teams. Adding Pedro Vite to the fold could add another layer to the attack as well, even though he was technically not an offseason move.
The best reason to pay attention: Brian White and Ryan Gauld could be one of the most potent attacking duos in MLS this season. Vanni Sartini’s tactical style also ensures these two have room to create space for each other in the final third and both of them proved clinical near the end of 2021 when they had an opportunity in front of goal. Lucas Cavalini, if he can stay healthy and regain form, might also join in the mix.
The one glaring weakness: The Whitecaps are still an injury away from Russell Teibert being a starter in the midfield, which is not ideal in 2022, especially if the Whitecaps have the lofty aspirations they claim to. Brazilian box-to-box man Caio Alexandre only just received his Canadian work visa and won’t be fully fit for a while, and Leo Owusu’s form at the MLS level has been spotty to this point. By shifting to three in the middle of the park this season, greater roles may open up for Sebastian Berhalter or Michael Baldisimo, but really, the Whitecaps could use another elite midfielder and they didn’t manage to add one this offseason.
One fact you can use to impress your friends: After not drawing a single match in 2020, the Vancouver Whitecaps had the most draws in the Western Conference last season with 13.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe character who most personifies this team: The Vancouver Whitecaps have been a bit like Hawkeye over the last 10 years, they’ve tried their best to act like one of the big dogs, but have struggled to back that up with their actions on and off the pitch. Slowly though, things are starting to change, Vanni Sartni has strong Doctor Strange vibes.