Vanni Sartini has called on his Vancouver Whitecaps side to exploit the inexperience of the Chicago Fire’s young group when the teams meet Saturday night.

The Caps are just a point away from a Western Conference playoff position after having shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers last time out.

Vancouver is winless in its last three games, though, and Sartini outlined his game plan for how the Caps will overcome the Fire.

“We are in a good place, our last two performances on the road have been good – we deserved a little more. We are in a good moment, we are confident.

“Chicago is a very young team, they are unpredictable, some games they are doing really well and they have good players. They are well organized, (but) we need to try to exploit the fact that when things are not going well they seem to – not panic – but they are not their best selves for 20, 25 minutes.”

Chicago heads into this game after back-to-back wins to move within four points of an Eastern Conference playoff spot, and Ezra Hendrickson believes his side can make the postseason.

“Now we’re there, within striking distance” he said. “Once we get over that line, which I think we will, we just have to maintain this type of performance. Stick within the game plan and we’ll be fine, we’ll be successful. And they believe in that.

“They believe when we talk to them and when we tell them, and they believe in what it is that we’re doing.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Vancouver Whitecaps – Lucas Cavallini

Cavallini will likely be tasked with leading up top again for the Caps, having scored six goals in MLS this season.

Chicago Fire – Xherdan Shaqiri

Shaqiri has been a creative presence for the Fire, providing two assists and scoring three goals from midfield.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Despite scoring in every game, Chicago has lost all four of its matches at the Whitecaps, including a 3-2 loss in its last visit in July 2018. The Fire have never recorded a victory in their 17 visits to Cascadia (D4 L13).

– Vancouver’s 2-1 defeat to Minnesota on July 8 was just its third home loss since returning to BC Place last August (W12 D4). The Whitecaps haven’t lost consecutive matches in their home stadium in a single season in three years, since losses to Sporting Kansas City and San Jose in July 2019.

– The Fire have won consecutive matches for the first time since mid-March following a 1-0 victory over Seattle on Saturday. Between those two winning streaks, Chicago managed just two victories in 15 MLS matches (D3 L10).

– The Whitecaps acquired Julian Gressel from D.C. United in a trade last week. Since joining MLS in 2017, Gressel has created 333 chances for teammates in regular-season play, fifth-most in MLS over that time.

– The Fire have gotten off to good starts recently, taking the lead into halftime of each of their last three matches (W2 L1). It’s the first time Chicago has led at the half of three straight MLS matches in five years, since doing so in four straight games from June-July 2017.