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VANCOUVER — After a tough loss and an abrupt coaching change, the Vancouver Whitecaps will be looking for to start fresh as they return home this weekend.
The 'Caps (5-7-8) head into Sunday's matchup with Real Salt Lake (7-7-6) on an eight-game undefeated streak in Major League Soccer play, capped with a comeback home victory over Los Angeles FC last week.
But the club crashed out of the preliminary round of the Canadian Championships on Thursday with a 4-3 loss to Canadian Premier League side Pacific FC.
The result saw head coach Marc Dos Santos and assistant Phil Dos Santos fired on Friday.
Whitecaps director of methodology Vanni Sartini will lead the team as acting head coach. Assistant coach Ricardo Clark and goalkeeper coach Youssef Dahha will remain in their posts, the team said.
Sartini said he spoke with the players for about five minutes after news of Dos Santos' departure broke on Friday, then left the group to talk among themselves.
“A lot of times during the season, the sense of togetherness that has been created in this group helped this group to go through a lot of difficult struggles and a lot of difficult moments," Sartini said, noting that the team seemed to lack resilience and toughness in Thursday's game.
“It’s up to them to find that between them. And of course, it’s up to me, also, to create the right environment in order to have another good night like we had last Saturday at B.C. Place (against LAFC).”
Anyone hoping Sartini will make dramatic moves ahead of Sunday's game is likely to be disappointed. The acting head coach said training on Friday and Saturday would focus on basics and figuring out which players are fit enough for the lineup.
“The work that needs to be done in the next two days is not the big, tactical work because there’s no time to do this," Sartini said.
“The first question we have to ask ourselves is ‘Who’s going to be fit?’ Because we are very close to the playoff line so every game is sort of a final and we need to make points in every game.”
Real Salt Lake also saw a coaching change Friday, with head coach Freddy Juarez decamping to the Seattle Sounders. RSL named assistant coach Pablo Mastroeni the interim replacement.
The 'Caps have already faced RSL twice this season, dropping a 3-1 decision on June 18 and losing 4-0 on July 7.
REAL SALT LAKE (7-7-6) AT VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (5-7-8)
B.C. Place, Sunday, 7 p.m. PDT
INJURY REPORT: The 'Caps will be without midfielders Caio Alexandre (left foot fracture) and Michael Baldisimo (right foot irritation), striker Lucas Cavallini (left knee sprain) and defender Erik Godoy (left calf strain). Defenders Cristian Gutierrez (left quad strain) and Jake Nerwinski (right knee) are questionable.
FORMER ROOMMATES REUNITE: The Whitecaps started the season based in Sandy, Utah, due to COVID-19 pandemic closures. The team played its first eight "home" games of the year at Real Salt Lake's Rio Tinto Stadium.
ROAD WOES: Real Salt Lake has struggled on the road lately, losing its last four away matches. The club's last "road" win came on at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 7 when they beat the 'Caps 4-0.
CORRALLING KREILACH: Salt Lake's Damir Kreilach has had Vancouver's number this season, scoring a pair of goals in each of the first two meetings. The Croatian midfielder has eight goals and five assists in 20 appearances this year.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 27, 2021.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press