In front of a crowd of 24,693 fans, the Vancouver Whitecaps got their first home win of the season, a 3-2 triumph over Cascadia rivals, Portland Timbers.

It was head coach Vanni Sartini’s first match back on the sidelines after serving a four-match suspension for comments in the final playoff match of last season.

Sartini called the reception and standing ovation he got from the fans at BC Place “beautiful.”

“I’m speechless,” he said. “I’m so grateful to these fans. And I’m so happy that we could celebrate together at the end. I think it’s another thing that tells me we need to work more. Because they deserve more. They give so much passion, so much love to me and to the team that we owe them.”

With Brian White out due to concussion protocol, Sartini opted for speed in his no. 10s and experience in his no. 9.

Fafa Picault returned to the lineup after missing out on the last match while on international duty with Haiti. Ryan Gauld and Damir Krielach made up the rest of the front 3.

It was also the first start of the season for Ali Ahmed. Ahmed has seen minutes from the bench so far as the club managed his return to full action after sports hernia surgery.

Whether it was the Cascadia Cup atmosphere or the standing ovation welcome Sartin received, the Whitecaps came out of the gates looking as though they had something to prove.

It took only 92 seconds for them to take the lead. Gauld received the ball in the 6-yard box from Ahmed. The Scot turned and cut it into the centre, but it was blocked only to return to him. On the second attempt, he slotted it cleanly by the near post to give the home side the early lead.

The pressure from Vancouver kept coming. In the 8th minute, Damir Krielach was inches away, getting a shot over Portland goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau. But it hit the crossbar and went down into the pitch before being cleared away.

Gauld had another chance a minute later, but Crépeau got enough of a toe on it to clear the danger.

Ten minutes in and it was all Whitecaps.

The Whitecaps did not relent in their pressure and did not offer Portland much of anything going forward. The back 3 were clean in their defence and calm in providing quick transitions back up the pitch.

Picault added another for the Whitecaps in the 29th minute. An Alessandro Schöpf cross from the right side of the pitch was back-heeled away from Gaul by the defender. But it landed right in the path of a streaking Picault.

The shot curled beautifully around Crépeau for Vancouver’s second goal of the night.

“The first half, guys, it was like, if it would be a city, it would be Florence, how beautiful it was. If it would be a person, it would be my wife, how beautiful it was,” Sartini joked.

“If it would be an idea, it would be socialism. That’s how beautiful it was,” he added.

Portland came out to start the second half with much more intensity. With a high press, the Whitecaps found themselves hemmed in their own half at times with no avenues forward.

And the Timbers took early advantage of their newfound momentum. Evander, who seemingly loves to play against Vancouver, hit the net again, getting Portland on the board in the 52nd minute.

Cristhian Paredes played in the attacking midfielder at the top of the 18-yard box, and he slotted the ball into the corner, beyond the stretch of Yohei Takaoka.

“Tristan [Blackmon] was attracted to the man and followed the man behind Ranko [Veselinović]. If he stays in position, I think probably he’s there and not conceding a goal. That being said, Tristan’s been fantastic for the other 85 minutes,” the head coach said.

Vancouver adjusted by bringing on Levonte Johnson for Kreilach in an attempt to inject some pace into the attacking third and regain the momentum.

And it looked to work for a moment, but the positive switch was not sustainable.

Portland levelled the match in the 78th minute. Felipe Mara’s diving header found Evander’s cross, catching Vancouver’s defence flat-footed.

But while all seemed lost and another draw on the cards, Ryan Raposo had different ideas.

Coming on as part of a three-man substitution in the 80th minute, Raposo’s second goal of the season saved the night.

Sam Adekugbe (part of that three-man change) crossed the ball in hard from the byline. Crepeau got a hand on it but it was not enough to hold on. Picault played it back in and Raposo, moving in from the right, put it over the line from a yard out.

“We always say, ‘The team is the leader,’ and I think the performance of the guys that came on [as subs] today was extremely good,” Sartini said.

The 87th-minute goal helped the Whitecaps to their first home win of the season.

“The goal gives the boost of being even more conscious of what we can achieve, being even hard on ourselves in order to be better,” Sartini said.

Sartini conceded that 15 minutes in the second half were lacking, but the knowledge of that and still coming out with three points gives them a platform to improve.

Up next

The Whitecaps remain at home for another two weeks. First up, Toronto FC come to BC Place to renew their Canadian rivalry with Vancouver.

The match is on Saturday, April 6 at 4:30 p.m.