VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to turn the tide of recent history as the club gets set to face off against Canadian Premier League side Valour FC on Wednesday in a Canadian Championship match.
The ‘Caps have exited the tournament twice in the past two years courtesy of CPL clubs, and Vancouver's players and staff want that to change.
Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini called the match the "most important" of the season so far and said his team wants to win the competition.
"If we lose, we're out of the Canadian Championship which is a competition we want to try to win," he said. "The last two Canadian Championship campaigns have been very disappointing for the club."
When asked who the pressure is on, Sartini agreed that the Whitecaps face more than their lower-level opponents.
"We enter the competition, we have to be honest, as the big guy not the underdog," he said, adding that the Whitecaps have a larger budget and more resources than their Winnipeg counterpart.
Valour FC is coached by former Whitecaps assistant coach Philip Dos Santos, the brother of former Vancouver head coach Marc Dos Santos.
The Winnipeg club currently sits in sixth place in the CPL and comes into the match on a two game unbeaten stretch.
Tosaint Ricketts, who scored the winner against Toronto FC on Sunday, said he and his teammates want to make up for past early competition exits.
"It's everything for us," he said. "We want to right those wrongs."
Competing for a country’s cup is something every team should aspire to, Ricketts added.
The Whitecaps will be without goalkeeper Thomas Hasal, who left Sunday’s match with an injury to his left hand, while Sartini said Scottish playmaker Ryan Gauld could be rested due to the quick turnaround in games.
Speaking after his side’s 0-0 draw with Halifax Wanderers -- following a storming 6-1 win over Atletico Ottawa -- Dos Santos said his team needs to be prepared for the challenge of facing MLS opponents.
"It's good for us to come a little bit down to earth and say, 'OK, what’s next?' and what's next is a heckuva challenge," he told the club's official site.
Vancouver comes into the match after a dramatic, late win over Toronto FC on Sunday which ended a three-game losing streak.
'Caps defender Jake Nerwinski said his team needs to overcome the mental block they have on the competition.
"It's a huge game for us," he said. "It's something we really need to get over. It's a hurdle that needs to be taken away."
This report was published by The Canadian Press on May 10, 2022.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press