Fresh off their first home win of the season (and against Cascadia Cup rivals Portland Timbers at that!), the Vancouver Whitecaps (3W-1D-1L) have another important match this weekend in a different rivalry.

Toronto FC (3W-1D-2L) is coming to BC Place for the only MLS season matchup between these two Canadian clubs.

The Whitecaps have a pretty good record over Toronto in past years; you have to go back to the 2020 MLS is Back season to find a win for the Reds over the Blue and White.

Last season, Vancouver won 2-1 over Toronto in MLS action at BMO Field in their only game.

Whitecaps are good, but can always be better

Head coach Vanni Sartini stressed, even before the season had started, the importance of starting it better than the previous few.

“We are on track on what we wanted to see on the first part of the season,” he said. “We said, a lot of the time, one of the points of emphasis is to start well and to score points immediately. And I would say we’ve checked [that box].”

And score points they have. The Whitecaps are averaging two points a game currently. They are also averaging two goals a game, double where they were after five matches last season.

“The performances have been good. We still can do better. I got to be honest, I think we did strong, very strong performances defensively when we were away in Dallas and in San Jose, shutting down basically teams that have a lot of offensive potential with the very lowest xG and lowest number of chances,” Sartini said.

Sartini said defensively, the Whitecaps have been very sound. Vancouver has one of the best goals against (6 GA in five matches).

The Whitecaps are also tied for third in the league in clearances.

Offensively, Vancouver has found early success in scoring by committee. The Whitecaps have had eight different goalscorers so far this season, and only two of those, Fafà Picault and Ryan Raposo, have multiple goals.

“The idea of this season is to have a lot of variety when we have the ball because we have also different players, different attackers and different kinds of midfielders too. So, every game and sometimes in between the game, we can change a little bit [of] the structure in how we attack.”

Finding ways to win under Herdman

Toronto won the Wooden Spoon last season for having the worst record in the league. They only recorded a total of 22 points.

But under new head coach John Herdman, they look like a much different team. They already have three wins, one less than the entirety of last season.

“I think the biggest difference is the mentality,” Sartini said of Toronto. “You could see now they believe in what they’re doing.”

Sartini referred to Herdman’s time with the Canada Soccer program and his ability to get players to ‘buy-in’ to his system and into the collective.

“They are extremely aggressive when they don’t have the ball. You see players who are pulling shifts, even physically, that they weren’t doing before. And so, I think that’s the biggest difference between the team that we saw last year and the team that we’re seeing this year,” he said.

But for as well as Toronto has done, there are questions about their achievements.

Toronto is only averaging a goal a game. They also have only had five different goalscorers.

Of those goalscorers, Lorenzo Insigne is the only player to have more than one. And he is now out for several weeks with a hamstring injury.

But Sartini dismissed the notion that Toronto has issues offensively.

“They have players that are fast in movement and free space for other players,” Sartini said.

He mentioned first overall 2024 SuperDraft pick Tyrese Spicer, midfielder Jonathan Osorio and designated player Federico Bernardeschi are players that can more than fill the void left behind by the injured Insigne.


The Whitecaps will most likely be without the services of Luís Martins who is dealing with a thigh issue. Brian White has returned to full training, but it remains to be seen if he will be cleared to play after suffering a concussion a couple of weeks ago against Real Salt Lake.

Toronto has been hit with an early injury bug. In addition to Insigne, Nickseon Gomis (wrist), Richie Laryea (thigh), Raoul Petretta (thigh) and Brandon Servania (knee) are all listed as out for this match.

Goalkeeper Sean Johnson (thigh) is questionable.