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Reprieve for Whitecaps coach as MLS reduces Sartini's ban by two games

Vanni Sartini Vancouver Whitecaps Vanni Sartini - The Canadian Press

Vancouver Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini has got a reprieve from Major League Soccer.

The league, citing a "successful petition," has reduced his original six-match suspension by two games, meaning the Italian can be back on the sidelines for the March 30 visit of the Portland Timbers.

Sartini was sanctioned for his on-field actions and post-game comments following the 1-0 loss to Los Angeles FC on Nov. 5 at B.C. Place Stadium that ended the Whitecaps' playoff run.

Sartini, who was sent off in the 95th minute, called referee Tim Ford's performance “disgraceful” and made a joke about being a suspect if Ford was found dead.

Along with the automatic one-match suspension for the red card, Sartini was handed an additional five-game ban for multiple violations including entering the field of play in a confrontational manner and public criticism following the match.

Sartini was also issued a US$20,000 fine and ordered to complete a league-approved behavioural assessment.

The union representing North American soccer referees blasted Sartini's comments, calling them “disgusting” and that it took the rhetoric against officials to a “dangerous new level.”

Sartini apologized for his comments during the Whitecaps end-of-season media availability and said he had reached out to MLS' professional referee organization.

“I'm sorry, there was no malicious intent,” Sartini said at the time. “I could've done much better and I'm sorry for that.”

Sartini is eligible to return after serving the final game of the reduced suspension on Saturday against Real Salt Lake.

The Whitecaps (2-0-1) have not missed a beat without their colourful coach on the sidelines. Vancouver, coming off a 3-1 win at FC Dallas, sits second in the Western Conference standings.

Assistant coach Michael D’Agostino has run the team on the sideline during Sartini's absence.

During the ban, Sartini is barred from Whitecaps’ locker-room and field level and cannot communicate with the team or club staff from 90 minutes before kickoff until the final whistle

He has been able to conduct training and other team activities. The MLS ban also did not apply to pre-season or CONCACAF Champions Cup matches.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2024