VANCOUVER — Days after sealing their place in the Canadian Championship final, the Vancouver Whitecaps are once again on the road in search of a win.
The Whitecaps take on St. Louis SC (7-1-4) on Saturday for their first-ever meeting with the expansion team.
“It’s going to be really hard,” said Vancouver head coach Vanni Sartini. “I think we need to look at this game as a game where we don’t have pressure.”
Sartini added that his team is facing a challenge against the high-flying Missouri team and that they should view it as a “bonus” to win.
“We know they are really, really, dangerous in transition,” Sartini said. “So it means when they go at you, they go at you.”
Forward Brian White echoed those thoughts.
“They play with a high-intensity style that can smother some opponents,” he said.
The match will be the Whitecaps’ seventh of 11 matches in 36 days. The travel and quick turnaround often requires squad rotation.
“It’s a lot of preparation and a lot of recovery,” said White.
St. Louis comes in to the match fresh off a 4-0 drubbing of Sporting Kansas City and its first home win since April.
“They play a very good style of soccer,” said St. Louis head coach Bradley Carnell. “They look, almost, a little bit like us.”
The expansion team sits third in the Western Conference, five points ahead of the Whitecaps.
Carnell said his team is looking to improve its conversion rate of winning tackles and retaining or winning possession against the Whitecaps.
“We know it’s a combative team, we know it’s an organized team,” he said. “We know it’s a pragmatic team, we know they can keep the ball, we know they can play good in transition. That’s them. What we have to do is us. We have to stick to our game plan.”
It will also be a reunion for former Whitecaps Tim Parker and Jake Nerwinski, who now play for the expansion club.
“I played there for six years and I owe a lot to that club for giving me a chance but I’m here now and looking to get three points,” Nerwinski said in a media availability.
Nerwinski refused to refer to the match as a “rivalry” game for himself or Parker, adding that he viewed it no differently than any other game.
“It’s nice to see those guys do so well in St. Louis,” said White. “It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be a test, it’s going to be a good time.”
The Whitecaps, meanwhile, beat the conference-leading Seattle Sounders 2-0 last week.
“The only way to beat teams like this is to be in (their face) and be better than them at what they do,” Sartini said about this week’s matchup.
Vancouver has performed well at home but struggled in regular-season away matches, but Sartini said his team wants to change that starting Saturday.
VANCOUVER (4-5-4) at ST. LOUIS SC (7-1-4)
FINAL BOUND: On Wednesday night, the Whitecaps secured their second consecutive Canadian Championship final appearance with a 3-0 victory over Canadian Premier League side Pacific FC. Vancouver will host CF Montréal on June 7 at B.C. Place in what will be their second meeting of the season.
SHUTOUT RESTARTED: The Whitecaps are riding a 216-minute shutout streak across all competitions.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2023.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press