VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps are coming off what head coach Vanni Sartini called a "chaotic" 6-2 win over the Houston Dynamo but now have to face one of the most in-form teams in the Western Conference.
Vancouver (5-5-5) will take on Sporting Kansas City (4-8-4) on Saturday night looking to continue their strong home form.
The Whitecaps overcame a sluggish first half performance against the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday to emerge victorious in a 6-2 win, and Sartini said he wants to see more discipline from his squad.
"If it's going to be a chaos game, it will be Kansas City (who wins)," he said during a media availability on Friday. "The most important thing is to be very well structured both in possession and out of possession."
He had dubbed the match the "worst performance of the season" and accused his players of taking "a collective vacation" during the first half before an improved second half display.
That same performance, he said, can't be replicated against a Sporting Kansas City side that only lost one regular-season game in May.
"The way (Kansas City) are, the way their coach is, they rely a lot on confidence," Sartini said. "Now that they have (gotten) results, they're dangerous. They press you, they try to come at you with a lot of players."
Midfielder Julian Gressel recorded his first two-goal game for the Whitecaps during Wednesday's win.
"They're a good team," he said. "I'm not surprised they've turned it around in the past few games."
The Whitecaps have four points and a game in hand over Kansas City, with the American team sitting in 11th in the Western Conference.
"It will be a tough matchup where we'd like to keep the gap we have from them," Gressel said.
Vancouver benefited last match from impact substitutes. Defender Ranko Veselinovic replaced Javain Brown at halftime to shore up the backline while Sebastian Berhalter scored the first goal of his MLS career before setting up Ryan Gauld for his first of the season.
That impact, Gressel said, comes from Vancouver having a clear style of play that the team has become attuned to.
"There's clear defined roles within the way we play, the way Vanni sets us up and it makes it easy for guys to come in and do their job," he said. "It's about coming on, doing the set movements we have offensively that has usually paid off in the last few weeks. Defensively, everybody knows what to do and is on the same page."
Kansas City enters the match off its best May performance in club history but head coach Peter Vermes was quick to downplay any pressure to achieve a result.
"I still think we have a long way to go," he said. "We're getting close to a better version week-in, week-out of us."
Kansas City has struggled with injuries and Vermes said he's looking at how to manage his players in an indoor stadium and on turf.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (5-5-5) vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (4-8-4)
RECORD BREAKING: The Whitecaps recorded a record-breaking performance against the Houston Dynamo last game. Brian White set a club-record for the fastest goal after the start of a half while it was also the first time the Whitecaps have scored six goals in their MLS history.
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES CELEBRATION: Saturday's match against Sporting KansasCity will see Whitecaps FC host the club’s third annual Indigenous Peoples Match tocelebrate the cultures and contributions of Indigenous and First Nations peoples.
DYNAMIC DUO: Midfielder Julian Gressel and attacking midfielder Pedro Vite appeared in every match of May. Gressel recorded four goals as well as an assist across all competitions while Vite tallied three goals and two assists across all competitions in May.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2023.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press