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Sartini outraged as Vancouver Whitecaps exit playoffs: “We didn’t have a fair chance” | MLSSoccer.com

Sartini outraged as Vancouver Whitecaps exit playoffs: “We didn’t have a fair chance” | MLSSoccer.com

Vanni Sartini has now overseen three Audi MLS Cup Playoffs games. But Vancouver Whitecaps FC‘s head coach hasn’t quite experienced a season-ending loss like Sunday’s 1-0 ouster to LAFC at BC Place.

Sartini wasn’t around to watch the final seconds of the Round One Best-of-3 series defeat, having been red-carded by referee Tim Ford for dissent in the 95th minute.

“At the end, we didn’t have a fair chance, to be honest,” Sartini said in his post-match press conference. “[It’s] because today unfortunately the referee had the bad game.”

With Vancouver pushing for a last-gasp equalizer that would have forced penalty kicks in Match 2, a bizarre sequence unfolded deep into second-half stoppage time.

After a ‘Caps corner kick was cleared, Ford collided with Whitecaps midfielder Alessandro Schöpf near the top of LAFC’s 18-yard box. Carlos Vela charged down-field on a breakaway and Dénis Bouanga scored the apparent 2-0 clincher, but it was called back for offside following Video Review.

“I don’t understand, to be honest, why he didn’t stop [play] because every time that the referee touches the ball … he stops and gives the ball to the team that was in possession of the ball,” Sartini said. “We were in possession of the ball, and we lost possession because of him. I don’t know why he didn’t give us possession immediately.”

Sartini also took issue with LAFC’s first-half penalty, which Bouanga (24′) converted for the game’s lone goal. Before halftime, Sartini similarly thought Vancouver deserved a PK when Richie Laryea went down in the box under pressure from Jesús Murillo.

Then, the Italian manager was surprised that LAFC striker Mario González didn’t get a red card for a heavy challenge on Whitecaps goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka and complained the visitors were able to persistently foul.

“If someone does his job and they give a yellow card to Max [Crepeau] in the first half when he was losing time, to Bounaga when he did two professional fouls, to Murillo when he made four fouls in the game,” he said. “If someone does his job, then they’re not keeping fouling you every time. If you allow them to do it, yeah, that’s the problem.”

Despite Sunday’s controversial ending, combined with Match 1’s 5-2 setback in Los Angeles, the Whitecaps leveled up in 2023. They won a second straight Canadian Championship, which earned them a 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup berth, and won over more fans with an entertaining attacking brand of soccer led by Ryan Gauld and Brian White.

There are plenty of reasons for optimism.

“We weren’t played off the park tonight. We’re not far off being successful in this league, making deep runs in the playoffs, challenging for MLS Cup,” White said after playing in front of an MLS club-record 30,204 fans.

“I think that’s the positive we can take out of this, is we can fine-tune a couple of things and we’re competing to be top of this league. I think everyone in the locker room has that belief that we can be that team.”

Sartini noted: “The biggest takeaway from this season is that we are a team that can easily start the next season and say ‘we want to win this thing.'”

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