One of the storylines heading into the 2024 Vancouver Whitecaps season was their start.

In 2022, they had their worst start of the MLS era as they went 1-7-1 until the end of April. In 2023, they started 2-2-5. That was better than 2022, but it was still a frustrating start.

This season, the Whitecaps have started 5-1-2. Three of those wins have been on the road. There was cautious optimism heading into this season from Whitecaps fans but nobody could’ve predicted the start to be this good. Not even the most positive Whitecaps fan ( if they do exist) would’ve predicted this.

They sit second in the Western Conference with a game in hand over the first-place Los Angeles Galaxy who are one point ahead. The Whitecaps are also two points behind Inter Miami in the Supporters Shield race. They have two games in hand.

Vancouver is coming off a 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders. While red cards from Jackson Ragan (Though it was probably just fine as a yellow) and Alex Roldán helped, the Whitecaps looked like the better team throughout the match. They maintained their defensive structure and goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka only had to make two saves, the last one being a big one. They also kept up their press and forced Seattle to turn the ball over which led to their two goals.

Is this real life? Or is this just fantasy? The Whitecaps have been caught in a landslide of good vibes and don’t want to escape this reality. But let’s not forget, that we are barely a quarter into the MLS season. With the Canadian Championship beginning next month for the Whitecaps and Leagues Cup in the summer, the real grind hasn’t begun for them yet.

Maturity and humility from the Whitecaps

After the game in Seattle, Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini talked about his team’s improvement in their mentality. But at the same time, he wants his team to not get ahead of themselves.

“I think the win is a testament that this team is becoming more mature,” he said. “But at the same time, we need to keep being humble. The only way to keep making points is having the humility of a small team with the quality and mentality of a big team.”

“I think we have more maturity in the team now,” said striker Brian White. “We have a good bond on and off the field. I think when you go on the road you need that unity [and] that cohesiveness. So I think we’ve been true to ourselves and executing our game plan, especially on the road.”

“We know how important it is not to switch off at any point in the game,” said midfielder and club captain Ryan Gauld. “I think a turning point was last year against the Galaxy. We were up 3-0 and they got a guy sent. Then we just switched off completely and they battered us for like 60 to 70 minutes. From then we realized we can’t take anything for granted.”

Togetherness and never never-satisfied mentality

Shortly after Sartini first took over as Whitecaps interim coach in 2021, he declared: “The team is the leader.”

It is a statement that still is true about this team almost three years later. While Gauld is the club’s captain and the engine of the team, he isn’t doing it alone. He and the team around him are leading the way. For starters, there have been nine different goal scorers on the team.

This team doesn’t have egos. Instead of thinking about themselves, it’s about the team. It’s a common theme in the media availabilities, there is more mention of “we” than “I.”

There seems to be a sense of togetherness in this team as well. A lot of credit goes to Sartini for that. They are all willing to play and win for each other like a pack of wolves hunting their prey.

Another common theme surrounding this team is that they seem to be satisfied and that is a good thing. After every match this season, Sartini and the players not only talk about the result but how they want more from themselves and to keep improving. That is a prime example of being humble as Sartini stated.

The great Chinese philosopher Confucius once said: “Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.” Simon Sinek, the English-born American author and motivational speaker said: “Great leaders don’t need to act tough. Their confidence and humility serve to underscore their toughness.”

Vancouver is a team that doesn’t have big names. They aren’t the flashiest team but they want to prove that they can be hard to bear.

The Whitecaps aren’t satisfied despite their good start. They want more. There are trophies to be won. They know it won’t be easy but the Whitecaps will keep moving forward.

With the team buying into Sartini’s system and remaining humble and having a sense of togetherness, it feels like the Whitecaps have entered a new and bright era.

Of course, things won’t get easier as they play the New York Red Bulls this Saturday. They are second in the Eastern Conference and like the Whitecaps, have 16 points.

It’s early but the light at the end of the tunnel seems closer and closer. And for the fans, the light deserves to shine on them.