The Canadian Championship hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for Vancouver Whitecaps over the years.
That one solitary win in 2015 feels like an age ago, with a string of disappointments in the years before and after, culminating with the ‘Caps going into the history books for all the wrong reasons last time out in 2019 by becoming the first MLS side to lose to a Canadian Premier League team.
That defeat to Cavalry FC still stings for Marc Dos Santos and it’s one he doesn’t want to repeat when the ‘Caps head over to Vancouver Island on Thursday night to take on Pacific FC in a first round match up. Resting players and putting an understrength line-up out there is the last thing you can expect.
“We learned from the past that you play against teams that you can never take lightly,” Dos Santos told AFTN. “So we’re going all in. And what I mean by all in is that if people expect rotations and changes, no way it’s going to happen. We’re going all in, we’re taking it extremely seriously.”
As a lover of cup football and local derbies, it’s great to hear. But it’s also the right approach, as table topping Pacific FC will give the Whitecaps a huge test on Thursday evening.
Led by Pa Modou Kah, who was part of that Whitecaps Voyageurs Cup winning side in 2015, this will be a fired up Pacific team full of players with Whitecaps connections, and many of them with points to prove.
“Pacific are a good team,” Dos Santos told us. “They’re doing very well in the Canadian Premier League. We’re very aware of that, so there’s not much more I can tell you about how serious we are than when you see the line-up against Pacific, you’ll see how serious we are about it.”
With the Whitecaps having got themselves back into the playoff picture in MLS, where they currently sit three points back of the 7th and final spot with a game in hand, and with the remaining league matches coming thick and fast, this approach may surprise some supporters for whom the playoffs are the be all and end all.
But the Canadian Championship holds a special place in the heart of Dos Santos and it’s a competition he describes as an “obsession” for the club, partly for the silverware it brings, but also because of the entry it then gives them to the CONCACAF Champions League.
“That’s the motivation of all the group,” Dos Santos said of the Champions League carrot, before reiterating his message about where the Canadian Championship currently sits in the Whitecaps’ priorities.
“If there’s a week that has Canadian Championship and a MLS game after, or it’s tight, we’ll also prioritise the Canadian Championship.”