“The injury and the concussion and the sickness and the COVID and whatever… everything that can go wrong, is going wrong at the same time. Last year, everything that could go well, went well. So I think it’s just a phase.” — Vanni Sartini

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Lucas Cavallini and Brian White: Fire and ice.

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Or maybe that’s the story of this season and last. An incandescent second half of 2021, a historically cold start to the 2022 season.

Goal-scoring, or the lack of it, is at the root of both stretches of play, but Saturday’s game will see the two stylistically distinct forwards paired up top to start a game for the first time this season.

In the hot-running Cavallini, who’s the bull to the china shop of the 18-yard box, and White, the calm, clinical finisher, the Vancouver Whitecaps have two stylistically distinct strikers. They’ve deployed together three times in the past year, to varying degrees of success, but the Caps are searching for a solution to their current offensive drought, and their partnership last week was productive enough head coach Vanni Sartini wants to start them together instead of using them interchangeably.

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“I think we had a strong week (of training) together,” said Cavallini. “A lot of positives, so we need to bring that on Saturday. It’s a must-win (game). I don’t think we can ask for less.”


NEXT GAME

saturday

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Austin F.C.

5:30 pm, Q2 Stadium. TV: TSN1. Radio: AM730


The Whitecaps (1-5-1) visit Austin FC (4-1-2) at Q2 Stadium in Texas on Saturday looking to halt a two-game losing streak. Vancouver has just six goals on the season, tied for the MLS-low, though Sporting Kansas City, also on six goals, has played one more game than the Caps.

Vancouver’s goal against Montreal last week came off a cross where Cavallini drew the defenders in on a bicycle attempt, leaving White open to power home their first goal. Tosaint Ricketts’ tying goal, waved off by VAR, also came off a cross, and it’s a point of emphasis for the Caps heading into Austin.

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“I firmly believe that the more crosses we have from a specific area — that for me means early crosses, not the classic crosses — the more chances we have to win,” said head coach Vanni Sartini.

“We have players that can be a threat. And the most important thing we need players in the box.”

Vancouver Whitecaps forward Brian White scored in his team debut against the Real Salt Lake last year.
Vancouver Whitecaps forward Brian White scored in his team debut against the Real Salt Lake last year. Photo by Chris Nicoll /USA TODAY Sports

The penalty area is where the broad-shouldered box bully nicknamed ‘El Tanque’ excels, leaving defenders toppled bowling pins in his wake. White’s off-ball movement and timing, coupled with good service, led to his career-best season last year.

But the mantle of responsibility lies heavy upon them this week, with midfielder Ryan Gauld and winger Deiber Caicedo both out for this game, depriving them of two of the best playmakers on the team. Pedro Vite will slide into Gauld’s spot in midfield, but his still nascent defensive game will have to be bolstered by the other midfielders, likely Russell Teibert and Michael Baldisimo, as Leo Owusu is also a likely scratch.

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“Every player has a different nuance. We’re not going to change our approach to the game or our tactics … but we have to put the players in, in the situation where they can flourish,” said Sartini. “Ryan is probably more dynamic and Pedro is more of a classic playmaker. So we’ll try to ‘save’ Pedro defensively. He needs to do the work, but we don’t expect the same work that Ryan does.”

Fullback Cristian Gutierrez is also expected to miss Saturday’s game, while centerback Erik Godoy — although training fully — is only expected to be an emergency option off the bench. Midfielder Caio Alexandre will miss another seven weeks with a broken hand.

Gauld’s loss hurts the most, with the second concussion of 2022 sidelining the Scottish No. 10. White also missed extended time this year, and neither Godoy nor Alexandre have played a full game this season.

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The Caps called up wingback Ali Ahmed and midfielder Vasco Fry for Saturday’s game to travel with the first team for the first time in the regular season.

“This season, everything that can go wrong is going wrong,” said Sartini. “The injury and the concussion and the sickness and the COVID and whatever… everything that can go wrong, is going wrong at the same time. Last year, everything that could go well, went well. So I think it’s just a phase.

“We don’t have to be focused on the guys that are out, we have to be focused on the guys that are in. And it also gives the chance to a couple of young guys to come to travel with the first team with the first time, so we need to look at the positive and because even with the guys that we go in to Austin, we can get the result .”

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