Whitecaps Bow Out Of Playoffs, But Show Plenty Of Promise
The Vancouver Whitecaps have bowed out of playoffs after losing out on a best-two-of-three series against reigning champions LAFC that saw the referee become the centre of attention in the game’s final minutes.
A penalty from LAFC winger Denis Bouanga saw LAFC grab the lead in the first half, where a stellar home crowd of 30,204 were present to cheer on the ‘Caps, with the upper bowl being opened for the first time in the club’s Major League Soccer era.
Absolute chaos reigned to close out the the match, however, with Vancouver pushing all of its players up for a last-minute corner kick. The ball was heading ‘Caps midfielder Alessandro Schopf before he was ultimately bowled over by the referee, which then allowed a controversial turnover that LAFC were quick to capitalize on before scoring at the opposite end.
Sartini strongly imposed himself in protest, stepping out onto the field to lodge his complaints and getting a a red card from the referee…only for VAR to review and overturn the goal entirely, though by that point Sartini was already ejected from the match.
Having lost the first match of the series in a 5-2 thriller stateside, Vanni Sartini and company’s season has now concluded. The Whitecaps were the only Canadian side to reach postseason, with CF Montreal missing out by inches and Toronto FC falling flat with the wooden spoon.
It’s been a memorable season for the ‘Caps, who handed head coach Sartini to a new two-year contract extension just weeks ago. The club once again tasted Canadian Championship glory, defeating CF Montreal 2-1 over the summer to secure Champions Cup action for next season. The club fought to a sixth-place finish in the regular season, eight behind Western Conference leaders St. Louis City.
Ryan Gauld recorded double digits in both goals and assists as the club outscored all of its fellow western playoff-clinchers save for the aforementioned St. Louis, while Brian White had a campaign to remember too: he led the way with 15 regular season goals to his name. While the club was middle-of-the-pack defensively, it’s a much better Whitecaps side that we’ve seen in previous years – and having the likes of Richie Laryea and Sam Adekugbe for a full season will lead to high hopes in 2024.
Sartini – who will likely be penalized for calling the ref ‘a disaster’ after the match – will now have roster decisions aplenty to make as the work will soon begin for the 2024 MLS season, but the 30,000+ attendance shows that the club is evidently on the right track – and that’s something that wasn’t the case for a long time.
Header Image Photo Credit: Vancouver Whitecaps FC