VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to turn their resounding win in the CONCACAF Champions League midweek into Major League Soccer success on Saturday.
Vancouver beat Real Espana 5-0 on Wednesday with goals coming from Tristan Blackmon, Ryan Raposo, Pedro Vite and Brian White, as well as an own-goal from Espana.
The tournament features the top clubs in North America, Central America and the Caribbean as winners of last year's Canadian Championship.
But in MLS, Vancouver is looking for its first win of the season after squandering leads in the second half in losses to Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes.
Vancouver next face FC Dallas, which is coming off a three-goal win over the Los Angeles Galaxy, on Saturday at BC Place. The Whitecaps have won three consecutive matches against the Texan team.
“The main thing from Wednesday is the realization that we can finish those chances that we have,” said head coach Vanni Sartini after training on Friday. “After two games where we went up, we had the chance to score a second goal, a third goal, even a fourth goal against (Real Salt Lake) and we missed those chances. Maybe it was something in the back of the mind of the players.”
Wednesday's performance is “proof” that the team can convert goal scoring opportunities, Sartini added.
The Whitecaps have deployed a high-pressing style this season and Sartini said it’s something he wants to continue against Dallas.
“We need to be good in the pressing but also intelligent in the pressing,” he said.
When asked about the potential for nerves if Vancouver takes the lead against Dallas, considering its past two results, Sartini downplayed it.
“It’s better to be nervous when you’re 1-0 up than nervous when you’re 1-0 down,” he said. “We talked about it. It’s unacceptable that two games in a row we are up and then we lose.”
“It was a drop of intensity from us,” added midfielder Ryan Gauld. “We had the majority of the ball in both first halfs and obviously the second halfs are a completely different story. Now it’s going to be making sure we piece it together.”
Raposo who scored his first goal of the season after making his first start as a left-back on Wednesday, moving back from his favoured position as a winger, said Wednesday’s result has been a boost ahead of Saturday’s match.
“It’s a big one. To get the first win of the season at home in front of the fans scoring five goals and add on a clean sheet, I think it was the perfect result for this team,” he said.
The Whitecaps have been complacent in the second half of both league matches, Raposo added, saying that Wednesday’s performance highlighted the need to not let up on opponents.
Raposo, who is right-footed and has primarily played as a winger, said he’s enjoyed the move to the defence.
Raposo was selected by the Whitecaps in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft and said he’s faced doubts about his ability and best position throughout his career.
“First two games of the season, I didn’t start. I played, I think, 14 minutes off the bench and the team needs me in the third game,” he said. “I would say I was never really the number one option everywhere I’ve been, even youth level, going into college and now coming into (being a professional). It’s always been a consistent and slow grind. That’s something I’m comfortable with and something that I’m getting used to.”
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (0-2-0) VS FC Dallas (1-1-0)
BC Place Stadium, Saturday
SPREADING THE LOVE: After Wednesday's win in CCL, the 'Caps have a total of six different goalscorers from all over the pitch. Defenders Blackmon, Javain Brown and Raposo, midfielder Alessandro Schöpf, attacking midfielder Vite and forward White have a goal each this season.
HAPPY RECORD: The Whitecaps beat the Texans twice last season, claiming a 2-1 victory at home and winning the away fixture 2-0. Vancouver has also won the previous three meetings at BC Place against Dallas.
LAST TIME OUT: Vancouver beat Dallas 2-0 back on June 18 in Frisco, Texas with goals coming from now-departed striker Lucas Cavallini and Deiber Caicedo.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2023.
Nicholas Wells, The Canadian Press