On May 5, 1974, the Vancouver Whitecaps suited up for the first time ever. The match ended up being a 2-1 loss against the San Jose Earthquakes.

On May 4, 2024, 50 years less a day, that Whitecaps team is still here, a few iterations older, maybe wiser, but hoping for a different outcome than that day so long ago.

Vancouver (5W-2D-2L) is fresh off a two-match road trip where they picked up four points. They are set to welcome Austin FC (4W-3D-3L) to BC Place.

Last season, the Whitecaps grabbed four points off Austin, coming from a 2-1 win at home and a nil draw in Texas.

The Whitecaps have the edge in the head-to-head series, boasting a 4W-1D-1L record against Austin FC. Austin has never gained a single point at BC Place.

A resurgent Austin

Austin’s season did not get off to the best of starts. It was not until their sixth match of the season, home against Texan rivals FC Dallas, that they registered their first win.

But that win kicked off a run that has seen them win four of their last five matches.

Whitecaps’ head coach Vanni Sartini said this is understandable when considering Austin’s turnover in key areas during the winter.

“I think the most impressive development that had is the fact that they had different kinds of strikers last year. So, having [Diego] Rubio, [Jáder] Obrian adds a lot of speed of their game and a lot of movement of their game. So, probably they had to get into this new style of play in the beginning. They became, in my opinion, much more dangerous in transition. And a different team than last year where they did a lot of possession, they went wide and they were crossing the ball,” he said.

Sartini said Austin has been impressive throughout April and much more dynamic, especially defensively.

“I think offensively, more or less, they play always the same way,” Sartini said. “Like, they try to create space for their offensive players, especially for Sebastián [Driussi]. From a high position, Driussi drops and can play in between the line and then try to serve the winger and Rubio behind the line of the opposition.”

Defensively, Austin has changed their style according to the opposition they play. Against Houston Dynamo FC a couple of weekends ago, they played a high-press game. Against LA Galaxy a week later, they played much lower and worked on the counter.

“It will be interesting to see which is the approach that they’re going to take against us.”

Fifty together and the journey so far

This weekend’s match is the 50th anniversary of the first Whitecaps match. Sartini was reflective of his own time with the club and how much the entire organization has grown.

“My time here I reflect with just one massive word, development for the club, and I don’t know, maybe a fairy tale for me,” the head coach laughed. “And so, development for the club. When I arrived at this club in 2019, I was an assistant coach. And if I compare the club now with the club in 2019, I don’t want to say night and day, but there’s a massive development of the club, especially on the football side. We established a very good scouting department. The club established a very good data department, that it was a little lacking when I arrived here. So, the football part has been really, really, really improved that reflects also in the results in the last two, three years.”

On a personal note, Sartini said, “This club changed my life.”

“I got to be really honest,” he said. “I never had a possibility to be a head coach before and working here in different roles before for two years, two-and-a-half years, and then they give me the possibility to have a shot at it. And then they confirm it twice. So, it’s really, I don’t know. The way that I improve myself as a coach, even as a person or as a human being, because when you become some kind of a public persona, you need a little bit of some filters, and this on a person who doesn’t have too many filters. So, it’s like amazing to be honest. It’s been a fantastic journey.”

The busy road ahead

May is one of the busiest months on the calendar for the Whitecaps. There are eight matches, including this weekend against Austin, coming. 

This month has in recent years marked the beginning of the Canadian Championship. But this year, the preliminary round is already completed. The Whitecaps, who received a bye as a result of making the final last year, will face CPL club Cavalry FC in the quarter-final.

Sartini said the schedule is hard and they must rely on every player to get through.

“People are always angry at me on social media because I tinker the team too much and change the players too much,” he said. “But it allows us to have not only 11 guys to rely on, it’s 15, 16, 17 guys. So, in this way, we’ve tried to bring them all of the same kind of level of form…And we have 21 outfield players. I can say without problem that everyone will have their chance to play. So, we need to be ready.”


There are no injuries to report. Fafà Picault and Alessandro Schöpf are both back in training.

Leo Väisänen (foot) and Owen Wolff (ankle) are both listed as questionable for Austin.