Vancouver Whitecaps acting head coach Vanni Sartini called for unity from his side following the departure of Marc Dos Santos before the visit of Real Salt Lake.
Vancouver are on an eight-game unbeaten run in the league, most recently defeating Los Angeles FC 2-1, but parted ways with head coach Dos Santos after a 4-3 defeat against Pacific FC in the preliminary round of the Canadian Championship.
The hosts sit just three points off the last playoff place, which San Jose Earthquakes occupy in the Western Conference, and former director of methodology Sartini wants to create the right environment as he takes to the helm.
“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.
“It’s up to them to find that (unity) 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).”
Salt Lake, who are sixth in the conference, have won three of their last four, though they did succumb to a 2-1 defeat against Colorado Rapids before head coach Freddy Juarez departed to pursue further opportunities.
Assistant coach Pablo Mastroeni steps in to take charge as interim head coach and general manager Elliot Fall fully supports Mastroeni’s temporary appointment.
“Despite only joining us prior to this season, Pablo Mastroeni knows our roster more intimately than anyone,” Fall said. “He is the ideal person to take the reins right now and continue our push for a playoff berth.
“We have the utmost confidence in his ability to maximize the talent on our roster in the short term.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Vancouver Whitecaps – Maxime Crepeau
Maxime Crepeau recorded six saves against Los Angeles FC and was named in the MLS Team of the Week. The hosts have kept just two clean sheets in their last eight and will want Crepeau to remain in similar form.
Real Salt Lake – Damir Kreilach
Damir Kreilach was the club’s leading scorer last term with eight goals in 21 appearances. He has also scored braces in each of Real Salt Lake’s first two matches against Vancouver this season.
KEY OPTA FACTS
·Real Salt Lake won the first two meetings between the sides this season after Vancouver won both encounters last season. RSL has never won three consecutive matches against Vancouver.
·Vancouver is unbeaten in eight straight matches (W3 D5) following consecutive wins over Austin and LAFC. This run matches the Whitecaps longest-ever unbeaten run, and eight-game stretch from April to June 2014, that also saw them record three wins and five draws.
·Real Salt Lake has lost three straight, and four of its last five away matches (D1).RSL’s only win in its last eight ‘away’ matches was a 4-0 win at the Whitecaps, but that match was played at Rio Tinto Stadium.
·Brian White has scored in consecutive matches after finding the net just once in his previous 16 MLS appearances dating back to last season with the Red Bulls.
·Damir Kreilach has scored braces in each of Real Salt Lake’s first two matches against Vancouver this season. The last player to score multiple goals against a team three times in a single season was Dom Dwyer for Sporting Kansas City against CF Montreal in 2014.