TORONTO — The Vancouver Whitecaps are racking up the frequent flyer miles. And climbing the MLS standings.
Goals by Tristan Blackmon and Brian White lifted Vancouver to a 2-1 comeback win Saturday in Toronto, the latest chapter in a profitable seven-game road trip.
The performance had Vancouver coach Vanni Sartini beaming.
"It's a fantastic win," said the colourful Italian. "It's beautiful and also we played very well."
"A huge performance," he added. "Huge, huge, huge, huge."
The Whitecaps, who went winless in their first seven road games (0-4-3) this season, are now 4-5-4 away from home and have picked up 10 of a possible 12 points on the current trip with wins in Portland and Chicago and a tie with New York City before arriving in Toronto.
Vancouver (11-8-8) came into weekend play in sixth place in the Western Conference, moving up the table to fourth with the win.
The Whitecaps, who have lost just one of their last 10 outings (6-1-3) across all competitions, are just point out of third place and two points out of second with games in hand over gthird-plae Seatte and second place-LAFC.
Sartini pointed to his team's maturity in rallying for the win.
"When we were down, we weren't in crisis or something. We knew that we were in charge of the game and would have the possibility to score at any moment," said the bench boss.
"Of course, it's not an ideal situation. But I think we have a kind of maturity at the moment that even if we go down, we keep doing the thing we're supposed to do. We stick to the plan. … But of course, let's hope to score first the next game."
The Whitecaps have firepower in reserve these days. Argentine midfielder Andres Cubas and Canadian internationals Sam Adekugbe and Junior Hoilett were not dressed for Vancouver, while Ecuador midfielder Pedro Vite came off the bench.
Toronto (4-14-10) remains mired in the Eastern basement and has won just two of its last 21 matches (2-15-4) in all competitions.
One of those rare victories came last time out, a 3-1 decision over visiting Philadelphia that snapped a 10-game losing streak. The three goals scored in the victory over the Union matched Toronto's total in the 10 previous losses.
TFC was looking for its first back-to-back league wins since August 2022.
Interim Toronto coach Terry Dunfield called Vancouver a "really good team, a really well-organized team. They don't give you a ton."
After an even, entertaining first half, Deandre Kerr put Toronto ahead in the 50th minute on a rapid-fire counterattack. Fullback Raoul Petretta found Lorenzo Insigne near halfway and the Italian put Kerr behind the defence with a perfectly weighted pass.
The 20-year-old Kerr raced in alone on Yohei Takaoka and beat the Japanese goalkeeper for his fifth goal of the season to tie Federico Bernardeschi for the club lead.
The Whitecaps answered six minutes later via a Blackmon header off a corner. It was the second of the season for the American defender who had just three goals in his first five MLS campaigns.
"We struggled to come back from that punch, I think," said Dunfield.
Ryan Raposo could have made to 2-1 for Vancouver minutes later but his shot hit the crossbar.
White had no such problem in the 66th minute, drifting away from centre back Michael Bradley to find room to head a Ryan Gauld cross past Tomas Romero.
It was White's 11th goal of the season — and his third in four games — and Gauld's ninth assist. Gauld, a Scottish attacker who is one of the Whitecaps designated players, has 11 goals and 10 assists in his last 16 games in all competitions.
"Up until that point of the goals, I thought it was a nice performance against a good side," said Dunfield.
White had several chances to add to the lead as the game wore on. Romero had a fine game in the Toronto goal.
"The only team who deserved to score after 2-1 was us. Three or four times," said Sartini. "They didn't do anything."
Vancouver outshot Toronto 17-10 (8-3 in shots on target).
And while Toronto showed signs of life, there were also reminders of the team's problems. After losing the ball late in the game, Insigne just watched as the Whitecaps raced toward the Toronto goal. Apparently it was no longer his problem.
It was the first meeting between the two sides since the Canadian Championship final in July 2022 when the Whitecaps won by penalty shootout, prompting a shirtless celebration by Sartini in front of the jubilant fans at B.C. Place Stadium.
Saturday's game marked the return of former Toronto wingback Richie Laryea, who may well next season take over the DP slot vacated by recently departed Venezuelan forward Sergio Cordova. Laryea left to applause from the BMO Field announced crowd of 26,156 when he was substituted in stoppage time.
The gap in the standings between the Canadian rivals was not reflected in the play Saturday, with both teams having their chances.
The Whitecaps are unbeaten in their last six road games in all competitions for the first time since a six-match run (5-0-1) from August to September 2021.
Vancouver, which is unbeaten in its last five meetings with Toronto (3-0-2), improved to 4-0-2 against Eastern Conference opposition this season. Bradley was honoured before the game for joining Osorio as the only TFC players to have made 300 appearances in all competitions.
Both teams are in action Wednesday with Toronto at Inter Miami and Vancouver at Houston. The Whitecaps finish the run of road games with visits to Salt Lake and Colorado.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2023.
The Canadian Press