Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini pulled no punches in his post-game comments after a 3-1 loss to MLS newcomers, St. Louis CITY SC.
“It’s hard to win when the other team has 12 men. That’s the initial thought,” the heated coach said.
Sartini went further to say that he wanted a letter of apology from the league “for the shameful performance of the referee.”
Sartini’s comments were a result of repeated frustrations in the match. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Sartini introduced a number to changes to his lineup, mostly notably in goal. Thomas Hasal came in for Yohei Takaoka. It was the Canadian goalkeeper’s first MLS match of the season and one he wish to have back.
Simon Becher also started the match in front of roughly 30 members of his family. The young American striker was born in Topeka, Kansas.
The Whitecaps started with their normal game plan in mind—holding possession, working the ball directly—but it was St. Louis that hit first. And they did so in style.
Eduard Löwen had a free kick to the right of the net, roughly 20-25 yards out. The midfielder’s kick was high over the pack in the 18-yard box and floated over the outstretched hand of Hasal.
On his goalkeeper, Sartini said there were errors but that he did play himself into the game.
“We need to focus on what [Hasal] did…but also not be, I would say, shy to tell him when did a mistake, why he did a mistake. So, that’s the only way in order to grow. And he knows. He’s a fantastic professional. We trust him. And when we need him again, we’ll play him again,” Sartini said.
But it was not enough from the Canadian goalkeeper, and the ball dipped at just the right time to get under the crossbar for the first goal of the match in the 10th minute. For as good as the kick was though, the positioning of Hasal was suspect.
And it did not get better for Hasal. Blackmon headed a long overhead kick back his goalkeeper, but Hasal had already left his net, judging the original trajectory of the ball.
Caught out of his goal, Blackmon’s headed ball ended up becoming an own goal as bad communication fell to calamity, and the Whitecaps found themselves down by two with only a few minutes to go in the first half.
“[Hasal] was unlucky,” Sartini said. “It was a miscommunication. I don’t know if he called the ball for Tristan [Blackmon], or he didn’t.”
Becher had an opportunity to pull the score within one, but he couldn’t get enough control of the ball before it was grabbed by the goalkeeper, Roman Bürki. Gressel’s cross, however, was good to see.
The second half saw both sides exchange chances, but neither could get much going. The Whitecaps made several offensive changes, bringing off the bulk of their offensive players on the bench to try to get them back into the match.
St. Louis was also lucky not to see Jake Nerwinski and Tim Parker, both former Whitecap players, not be sent off for potential second yellow cards. For his part, Nerwinski was substituted a minute after his challenge as he was clearly on the referee’s radar and very happy not to have gone off under different circumstances.
“It was always two different measurements [between either team for fouls]. It was never the same. And Jake [Nerwinski] should have been sent off.”
Vancouver did find a way back into the match in the final 10 minutes. Gressel’s cross from deep along the right flank found the head of White. The American striker smashed into the turf and beyond Bürki. With a few minutes left, they had pulled within one.
But the mistakes continued. Hasal spilled a ball off a free kick. Miguel Perez, an 18-year-old homegrown player, picked up the rebound and scored his first MLS goal, adding misery to an already damnable night for the Whitecaps.
It was a match to forget for Vancouver.
“I think it’s a game that should be cancelled because the ref was a shame. So, that’s what it is,” Sartini said.
Coming up, the Whitecaps have a four-game stretch at B.C. Place, including the final of the Canadian Championship. The first of these is coming quickly as Vancouver will face Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, May 31.
NOTE: The referee tonight, Sergii Boiko, is a Ukrainian international referee. He left his home country and came to the United States as a refugee due to the ongoing war.