With fortune against them early on this season, the 'Caps could have pointed to the players missing on Sunday.
- Tristan Blackmon, arguably the team's top performer this season.
- Cristián Gutiérrez, a Canadian international.
- Leo Owusu, 8W-1L-5D record when starting in 2021, 2.07 ppg.
- Caio Alexandre, a U22 Initiative player who adds another dynamic to midfield.
- Andrés Cubas, a Paraguayan international, expected to be a key player.
- Luís Martins, an experienced pro who started the whole season for a strong Sporting KC side last year.
That was before starting goalkeeper Thomas Hasal went down and had to be subbed out in the 70th minute.
But on a Vanni Sartini led team, none of that matters.
"I'm very happy that the protagonists of the win have been guys that came off the bench to remind everyone that the group is the leader," noted the Italian tactician after the match. "Cody [Cropper] made a great save as soon as he came in, and Lucas [Cavallini] and Tos [Ricketts] combining for the goal. It’s beautiful, it’s very beautiful, we’re very happy.”
Many teams talk about depth, rotation, and having everyone prepared to play, but Sartini lives it with his squad. 20 of a possible 22 first team players who have been available to play (excluding goalkeepers) have already started for the team this season.
And that full team mentality will be needed throughout May, with matches potentially every Wednesday and weekend.
The next of those challenges comes in the Canadian Championship against Canadian Premier League side Valour FC at BC Place on Wednesday. Sartini has not minced words on the importance of the match.
“We can be very clear, Wednesday is the most important game of the year. Why? Because if we lose we are out of the Canadian Championship. That is a competition that we want to try to win... We enter the competition and have to be honest in a way that we are the big guy, we're not the underdog because the CPL, of course the budget and everything, we need to have extreme respect for Valour. Go with all our guns there and try to win this game, because the last two years, the last two Canadian Championship campaigns have been very disappointing for the club.”
With a short turnaround from Sunday to Wednesday, the group must once again be the leader.
"I want the 11 players tomorrow that guarantee me a high level of intensity... It's a team that if we let them play and if we're not intense like we have to be, they can create a lot of problems."
Kickoff on Wednesday is set for 7 p.m. PT. Tickets are available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets.