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Whitecaps head coach suspended 6 games, fined $20K by MLS

Vancouver Whitecaps FC Head Coach, Vanni Sartini, speaks during an end-of-season news conference in Vancouver, on Nov. 7, 2023.  (Ethan Cairn/THE CANADIAN PRESS - image credit)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Head Coach, Vanni Sartini, speaks during an end-of-season news conference in Vancouver, on Nov. 7, 2023. (Ethan Cairn/THE CANADIAN PRESS - image credit)

Major League Soccer has come down hard on the Vancouver Whitecaps' head coach for his behaviour in a match that saw his team eliminated from the playoffs.

Vanni Sartini has been slapped with a six-game suspension and fined $20,000 for multiple violations of league policy during the Whitecaps home game against LAFC (Los Angeles Football Club) on Nov. 5.

Sartini was kicked out of the game in the final minutes after storming onto the field in reaction to a controversial non-call by referee Tim Ford that snuffed out a Whitecaps chance to tie the score.

In his post-match press conference, Sartini called Ford a "disaster." He also joked, "If they found [Ford] in False Creek then I'm going to be a suspect. I'm not saying that I would do it, I'm saying I'm the first suspect — it's different.''

The comments drew condemnation from the referee's union. Sartini has apologized for his comments.

MLS says Sartini must also undergo a league approved behavioural assessment and possible treatment. He can petition for a reduction in the suspension, said the league.

The sanctions include an automatic one-match suspension for the red card, plus an additional five matches for other violations, including "entering the field of play in a confrontational manner" and "public criticism" following the match.

Referee Tim Ford, centre right, is followed by Whitecaps' Ali Ahmed, centre left, and Sam Adekugbe, back left, as he leaves the field after Vancouver's 1-0 home loss to Los Angeles FC in Game 2 of their first-round MLS playoff series on Sunday.
Referee Tim Ford, centre right, is followed by Whitecaps' Ali Ahmed, centre left, and Sam Adekugbe, back left, as he leaves the field after Vancouver's 1-0 home loss to Los Angeles FC in Game 2 of their first-round MLS playoff series on Sunday.

Referee Tim Ford, centre right, is followed by Whitecaps' Ali Ahmed, centre left, and Sam Adekugbe, back left, as he leaves the field after Vancouver's 1-0 home loss to Los Angeles FC in Game 2 of their first-round MLS playoff series on Sunday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Eight Whitecaps players and two other coaches have also been sanctioned by the MLS disciplinary committee for incidents during the game.

Defender Mathias Laborda was handed a one-match suspension and an undisclosed fine for "entering the field of play in a confrontational manner, during a confrontational incident and inciting and/or escalating a mass confrontation."

Goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka, defender Ranko Veselinovic, midfielder Ryan Gauld and forward Simon Becher were fined an undisclosed amount for "inciting and/or escalating a mass confrontation."

And Whitecaps assistant coaches Youssef Dahha and Michael D'Agostino, midfielders Luis Martins and Ali Ahmed, and defender Javian Brown were fined an undisclosed amount for "entering the field of play in a confrontational manner, during a confrontational incident."

The suspensions begin at the start of next year's regular season.