Vancouver Whitecaps agree to 2-year deal with head coach Vanni Sartini

Houston Dynamo forward Maximiliano Urruti (37) and Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Janio Bikel (19) vie for the ball during the first half during an MLS soccer match Tuesday, July 20, 2021, in Sandy, Utah. (AP / Rick Bowmer)

The Vancouver Whitecaps are sticking with Vanni Sartini, removing the interim tag the head coach held while leading the club through a big late-season comeback.

The 'Caps announced the news in a release Tuesday, saying Sartini has agreed to a two-year contract through the 2023 season.

The exuberant native of Florence, Italy, was handed the job on an interim basis on Aug. 27 when the 'Caps fired former head coach Marc Dos Santos.

Vancouver fell to the bottom of the Western Conference in early August following an eight-game winless skid, and later lost to Canadian Premier League side Pacific FC in the Canadian Championship.

The 'Caps finished the regular season sixth in the Western Conference with a 12-9-13 record - including a 7-2-5 stretch under Sartini - and made the playoffs for the first time in four years before losing to Sporting Kansas City 3-1 in a first-round matchup.

Sartini came to the Whitecaps in 2019 as Dos Santos's assistant coach and spent two seasons with the first team before he was named the club's “director of methodology” and took over coaching the U-23 team in 2020.

Before joining the 'Caps, he worked as a coach educator for the Italian Football Federation and the U.S. Soccer Federation, and coached at several different clubs in Italy.

Sartini said in a statement Wednesday that the last three months have “completely changed (his) life.”

“When the club gave me the chance to be the head coach in August, I didn't know how long I was going to last but I knew that I had to give everything and make the most of the opportunity,” he said. “I am fortunate to be surrounded by a great team and I'm so honoured, but also so excited, to help grow this club and continue this journey. Everyone now knows we are a good team, there are certain standards that need to be met, and the best is yet to come.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2021.