The last time the Vancouver Whitecaps played Pacific FC, head coach Vanni Sartini was still their Under 23 head coach and Director of Methodology.
As you know, the Whitecaps lost 4-3 to Pacific in the 2021 Canadian Championship Quarterfinal. That is still the best moment in Pacific’s young history.
That game would change Sartini’s life. Late into the night after the game, Whitecaps Sporting Director and CEO Axel Schuster ordered burgers from UberEats, made a decision and went to bed at 4:00 am. The next day, it was announced Marc Dos Santos and his assistant coach and brother Phil Dos Santos were fired. Sartini was named interim head coach and later became the permanent head coach after leading the Whitecaps to a springing run to the playoffs.
On Tuesday, Sartini was asked about what he remembers about that game. He wasn’t in Langford with the team but in Vancouver coaching the Under 23 team which included members of the first team that couldn’t make the trip (including Marcus Godinho) against a local league team
“I remember that Pacific score immediately and then we tied,” said Sartini. “So I remember thinking to myself, okay, now we tied, it’s going to be okay. Then they scored, you see the 2-1, the 2-2, the 3-2, 4-2 and so it was like a moment of, okay, it’s one of those days that can happen in soccer. Let’s try not to repeat that kind of day tomorrow.
The Whitecaps did win the Voyageurs Cup last season and they beat CPL clubs Valour, Cavalry and York United before beating Toronto FC on penalties in the final at BC Place.
Motivation isn’t needed for the Whitecaps. They know what the stakes are. They have the chance to host the final again.
“There’s not too much to motivate because if we win we go to the final of the national championship…I think we don’t need an extra motivation,” said Sartini. ” The fact of going to the final, that we’re going to play at home if we win, I think it should be enough.”
Sartini also added that Pacific is going to be extra motivated.
“I think they are going to come with an intensity that is going to be over the roof,” he said. “Like even the choice that (Pacific head coach) James (Merriman) did on the weekend, they didn’t travel with a lot of very important players for the CPL game. So I think that they rested players in order to be 100% against us. I think that rightly so, they consider this game even bigger than the other game because the other game was a quarterfinal. This game gives you the chance to host the final of the Canadian Championship in your place. So I think both the team will be motivated. motivation because they are, quote-unquote, the smaller team against the MLS team but our task is to match their intensity from minute one because if we don’t do it, then the game is going to become highly complicated.”
Pacific FC consists of a couple of former Whitecaps. Winger Kekuta Manneh was with Vancouver from 2013 to 2017 and forward Easton Ongaro was with Whitecaps FC 2 last season.
Other notable Pacific players to watch include forward Josh Heard, who scored a penalty l in the quarterfinal against TSS Rovers. Midfielder Sean Young leads Pacific in goals, assists (two each) and shots (11) in the CPL and defender Amir Didic leads them in interceptions in the CPL with 10.
“They are a team that possesses the ball very well, they build up very well, said Sartini on Pacific. “They play a very, I would say, distinct and even pleasant brand of football when they have the ball…We need to be very organized but then I think the most dangerous thing is they’re very good in offensive set plays and they have Amir Didic that is a killer in that kind of game.”
Sartini also said to expect a back four Wednesday against Pacific instead of the back three seen against the Seattle Sounders. He also believes with the mood high and a full squad, there is no reason not to have a good performance at Starlight Stadium.
Everything went well, everyone is, I would say, ready to go,” said Sartini. ” We have a full squad, to be honest. The mood was of course, very good after the good performance on Saturday… So there was a lot of energy too in training. I think things are looking pretty good. Now we have to continue tomorrow doing a great performance in Victoria.”
While the Whitecaps should win, the last meeting proves anything can happen in cup competitions. That is the beauty of the cup after all.
The Whitecaps need to prove that things will be different. It is almost like they need to exorcise the demons from 2021 and look for revenge.
The chorus from Trivium’s In The Court Of The Dragon goes:
In spite of all the hate behind these eyes
I’ve seen that only one of us survives
I’m here to destroy you, I’m here to avenge
In the court of the dragon, I descend
The Whitecaps need to enter the court of the dragon and slay it.
It is also worth noting that the Whitecaps have signed forward Levonte Johnson to a short-term agreement on Tuesday for the game in Langford on Wednesday. He did well in the quarterfinal against York United scoring a goal in a 4-1 Vancouver win.