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Mar 30, 2024 12:13 am

With coach back, Whitecaps face Timbers in Cascadia match

Vanni Sartini

Vancouver head coach Vanni Sartini will be on the sidelines for the first time this season when the Whitecaps open defense of the Cascadia Cup against Pacific Northwest rival Portland Timbers on Saturday night.

Sartini received a red card in the 95th minute of a season-ending 1-0 loss to Los Angeles FC on Nov. 5 in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs. He later picked up an additional five-game suspension and a $20,000 fine for what the league called “multiple violations of league policy” that included confronting officials on the field and public criticism afterward.

The suspension was later reduced to three games to go along with the one-gamer for the red card.

Assistant coach Michael D’Agostino guided Vancouver to a 2-1-1 start and seven points, just one point off the best start (2-0-2, 8 points) in team history accomplished in both 2012 and 2014.

Sartini was asked what kind of reaction he thought he would receive from the crowd on Saturday.

“I hope that they will be happy, but the most important thing is that they’re happy at the end of the game because we won,” he said.

Midfielder Ryan Gauld said Sartini’s presence on the sideline should give the team a boost following a 2-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake on March 23.

“There’s no doubt he raises the energy,” Gauld said. “That’s just his character. That’s what he brings.”

The Cascadia Cup is an annual head-to-head competition involving the Whitecaps, Portland and the Seattle Sounders. Vancouver went 3-2-1 in those matches last season to win the competition including a pair of wins over the Timbers.

Portland (2-2-1, 7 points) has lost two straight matches, including a 3-1 home defeat to the Philadelphia Union on March 23. Making his MLS debut, designated player Jonathan Rodriguez, obtained in a full transfer from Club America in LIGA MX, scored the Timbers lone goal in the 80th minute of the contest on a header off a Santiago Moreno cross.

“Obviously it was a big disappointment on Saturday,” Portland coach Phil Neville said. “This week has been more about more concentration, more quality in our finishing and keep believing in what we’re doing.”

Neville said he wants to see how his squad handles its first losing streak of the season.

“I want to see now what the team has got, what the players have got, what individuals have got, and how we’re going to handle that adversity,” Neville said. “I think it’s a great challenge going into this game and going up against one of our biggest rivals.”

–Field Level Media

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