VANCOUVER — Vanni Sartini let out a sigh as he began his post-match press conference.
The Vancouver Whitecaps head coach had just seen his team lose 5-3 on penalties against Mexican side Tigres UANL in the Leagues Cup competition.
The shootout loss, which followed a 1-1 draw in regulation time, marked Vancouver’s elimination from the tourney.
“We deserved to win. It’s a steal,” Sartini said after the match.
Pedro Vite opened the scoring for the Whitecaps, firing a half volley past a stranded Nahuel Guzman in the 10th minute after Ryan Gauld’s intended cross to Brian White was deflected to the Ecuadorean.
The Whitecaps held on to the lead until the second half when French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac struck back.
Javier Aquino clipped a cross in from Vancouver’s left side, finding an unmarked Gignac who connected on a bicycle kick to even the score in the 53rd minute.
But the goal was criticized by Sartini, who felt the Frenchman fouled a Whitecaps player in the lead up.
“Because it’s Andre-Pierre Gignac, and Tigres have more fans than us, then everybody is happy they win. Maybe the league is more happy if they win,” he said.
Ranko Veselinovic missed his shot for Vancouver in the penalty shootout condemning them to defeat.
But the Whitecaps had several chances to win the game before the shootout, with Ryan Raposo glancing a header wide and striker Brian White missing a chance from six yards out.
“I’m proud of the entire team,” said Sartini.
Sartini singled out Canadian wingback Raposo’s performance in the tight match.
The praise comes after a week where the Whitecaps signed two prominent wingbacks in the form of Richie Laryea and Sam Adekugbe.
Adekugbe agreed to a Major League Soccer contract through 2026 with a club option for 2027, the team said in a release.
Adekugbe, who has played for several European teams during his career and made three appearances for Canada at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, will be added to the roster pending a medical.
Laryea meanwhile joined on loan to the end of the year from English Premier League side Nottingham Forest.
He had spent part of the season on loan to Toronto FC before signing with the Whitecaps.
The signings mean there will be more competition for game time for Raposo and fellow defenders Luis Martins and Matthias Laborda.
“We’re paying good money for these guys, they’re not coming to sit on the bench,” said Raposo about the possibility of feeling pressure by the new signings. “It’s my job to fight for my spot in this team and have performances like today.”
The Leagues Cup features matches between clubs from Major League Soccer and Mexico’s Liga MX.
Vancouver previously tied current Leagues Cup holders Club Leon and beat MLS foes L.A. Galaxy.
Tigres will play Mexican side Monterrey on Tuesday after they beat Portland FC 1-0 on Friday. . . . Vancouver will return to MLS action on Aug. 20.