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Sartini: “Naive” Whitecaps Need to Assert Themselves on the Road

Vanni Sartini’s Whitecaps are yet to pick up a point on the road after a 2-1 loss in Montreal.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at CF Montreal David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, experience Vancouver Whitecaps soccer.

It’s been a nightmare start to the season for Vanni Sartini’s team, who dropped their second match in a row on Saturday afternoon at Stade Saputo by a score of 2-1.

The opening moments of this one set the tone, as the Whitecaps conceded before the social media team could announce that the match was underway - not a great look.

A couple of themes that have been prevalent so far this season really stood out on the opening goal. The first is that the wing back position is still a mess. It was another incredibly tough match for Javain Brown, who as Matt Doyle said in the tweet above, has had a nightmarish 2022 so far for club and country. Yet, it’s not just Brown who’s struggled at that spot: the ‘Caps haven’t been able to get the most out of Cristian Dajome either, and Cristian Gutierrez has also been very limited in his play so far this season. These were good players for the ‘Caps last year and for a team that didn’t have a lot of roster turnover, they can’t afford this type of regression.

Equally, the Vancouver Whitecaps’ mentality on the road so far this year has been very poor, and that continued in Montreal. After the match, Sartini described his team as “shy” and “naive” and that was definitely apparent not only on the first Montreal goal, but also the second (which also happened in the opening minute of a half). Hearing from both Brian White and Jake Nerwinski after the match, the frustration looking back on those tentative moments was palpable, but so far this team has not done a good job addressing them.

The Whitecaps did improve their mentality as the match went on, and in a lot of ways, the match took the same shape as last weekend against Portland, where the Whitecaps threw everything but the kitchen sink at Montreal as they worked to bring the match back within reach.

The striker pairing of Lucas Cavallini and Brian White was a big part of that effort, and seeing the change in the Whitecaps play after Cava came on in the second half was enough to convince me (and I’m sure many of you) that this team should try those two together in a starting role once again, something we haven’t seen much of since the MDS days.

After Cavallini created some chaos in the box, Brian White was able to break through for Vancouver and open his 2022 account in the 65th minute, making the score 2-1.

This would be the Whitecaps’ only goal of the match.

Or was it?

This is where this match, much like last weekend against Portland, got a bit more complicated. Ultimately, I think what makes these past two losses so frustrating for both the team and supporters is that neither of their opponents played particularly well in the second half, and if not for some self-inflicted errors, both contests were very much there for the taking.

The first dis-allowed goal, the one which Lucas Cavallini scored, was not taken to VAR, and despite the insistence of TheArtisEven on reddit, it did look as though Cava was a hair offside. Credit where credit is due though, it was a wonderfully worked team effort up until that point, and a shame the Whitecaps weren’t able to produce more of these chances throughout. Shoutout to Pedro Vite for looking good once again.

Despite some more nervy play from Montreal as things went on, the Whitecaps weren’t able to create much in the final stages, that is, not until right at the death, where veteran striker Tos Ricketts got on the end of a second phase ball from Russell Teibert, who was somehow still on the pitch in the 93rd minute.

It would have been the ultimate smash and grab equalizer, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Had the Whitecaps picked up three points last weekend at home, perhaps a poor showing on the road could have been excused, but the ‘Caps have blown through all their house money already this season. The sample size is big enough now where injuries and a tough schedule cannot explain away some of the fundamental problems with this team. Add to that the prospect of Caio Alexandre being out of the lineup for at least the next six weeks, as well as Ryan Gauld’s concussion concerns, and this team could be looking down the barrel of an ugly summer if there isn’t a serious shakeup.