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Whitecaps seek helping hand in bid for MLS playoff qualification

Vancouver faces Western Conference winners St. Louis City S.C. on Wednesday night
Vancouver Whitecaps forward Brian White (24) takes a shot on goal against D.C. United during second half MLS action in Vancouver, B.C., on September 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

The Vancouver Whitecaps are nearly masters of their destiny, but they will need a helping hand from rivals to clinch a playoff spot.

Vancouver (11-10-10) faces Western Conference winners St. Louis City S.C. (17-5-10) on Wednesday night at B.C. Place.

The Whitecaps need a victory and for both Minnesota United F.C. and the Los Angeles Galaxy to lose or draw on Wednesday (Oct. 4) in order to clinch.

“To make the playoff is the primary goal. That’s the thing,” said Vanni Sartini, Vancouver’s head coach about whether his team was aiming for a spot in the Western Conference’s top four.

Minnesota is facing Los Angeles F.C. while the Galaxy are taking on the Seattle Sounders.

“Basically everyone tied and so the situation is exactly the same like before (Saturday’s game) with one game less to play,” said Sartini, downplaying his team failing to get a win on Saturday.

St. Louis travels to Vancouver after beating Sporting Kansas City 4-1 for their second straight win and fifth game unbeaten.

“We have a little advantage that they have to they have to fly from the middle of the United States basically here, so they will be maybe a little time more tired than us,” said Sartini. “And we need to be ready to go.”

The aim, Sartini said, is to follow a similar plan to how his team approached Saturday’s 2-2 draw against visiting D.C. United, albeit without the crippling defensive mishaps.

“St Louis plays a very direct game, so it’s kind of win the second ball and everything so play more or less the same game … but again, we need to be stronger and mentally, technically more in a fighting mode,” he said.

Striker Brian White and Scottish playmaker Ryan Gauld have contributed 25 goals for the Whitecaps this season, with White accounting for 14 of them.

Sartini spoke after the last match of the importance and expectation the Whitecaps have placed on the duo, with much of Vancouver’s attacking play comes from the two players.

The success of their partnership also hastened the departure of off-season signing Sergio Cordova.

White said there needs to be improvement from Saturday’s game for St. Louis.

“It’s going to be another tough test,” he said. “We need to address some things in both boxes in terms of kill games off and get the goals we want to get, on the other side: stop them from scoring goals that teams have been scoring.”

The game features the return of ex-Whitecap Jake Nerwinski after the club declined his contract option at the end of 2022.

The New Jersey native opted to join St. Louis for its inaugural Major League Soccer season. His decision was rewarded when the expansion team was confirmed as Western Conference winner last weekend.

“I think the style of play we play is we’re always aggressive, we’re always on the front foot, always attacking. I’m excited to come back to B.C. Place and play, but I do have to do that in the right way,” said Nerwinski ahead of Wednesday’s game.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press