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Minnesota United FC midfielder Ethan Finlay battles for the ball with Vancouver Whitecaps forward Brian White during a game at B.C. Place, in Vancouver, on Oct. 27, 2021.Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Sitting on the sidelines as his Vancouver Whitecaps struggled through the start of the season wasn’t easy for Brian White.

First it was a foot contusion that kept the American striker out of the lineup, then calf tightness. After leading the team in scoring last season, White has been limited to just 26 minutes of action through the first four games of 2022 campaign.

Time off for the international break gave him a chance to heal, though, and the 26-year-old forward is expected to be in the lineup Saturday when the Whitecaps (0-3-1) host Sporting Kansas City (2-3-0).

“Obviously it’s been a rough start to the season for me, a couple of injuries. But sometimes things like that happen,” he said after training on Thursday. “So it would be great to get out there, score a goal, help the team win in front of our home fans again.”

Having White back in the mix could be key for a Vancouver side still searching for its first win of the season.

The Whitecaps fell 3-1 to Los Angeles FC in their last outing on March 20 and sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings with a single point and a minus-seven goal differential.

Head coach Vanni Sartini is confident his group can bump the slump, especially with the return of crucial players like White.

“Every player brings some unique characteristic,” he said. “[White] brings his capacity to press and bring the opposition with him and he’s been very good when we don’t have the ball. And when we have the ball, he’s able to play those touches that allow us to play in between the line.”

With White out of commission to start the season, the Whitecaps relied on Lucas Cavallini to lead the attack. The Canadian striker stepped up to the challenge, scoring Vancouver’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo on March 12.

Cavallini was then called up to the Canadian national team for the World Cup qualifiers, where he put in 88 minutes of work across two games. He’ll rejoin the Whitecaps on Friday and Sartini said he expects the 29-year-old Toronto native to figure into Saturday’s game.

Having both White and Cavallini available is a boon for the squad, said attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld.

“I think any team would miss a player like Brian, somebody who works that hard,” he said. “Tactically, I think he’s a brilliant player to have but I think Cava started the season really well up top as well. So it’ll be good to have both fit and both ready to help the team.”

The Whitecaps know they’ll need all the help they can get to earn a result against SKC, a squad that’s coming off a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake last week.

“They’re a good side,” Gauld said. “The majority of the team is the same from last year and I think the year before as well. There’s a lot of the same players, they all know each other’s game pretty well and they’re very good going forward so we’re going to have to be careful.

“But we proved last year when they came to Vancouver that we can beat them so we’ll try to take things from that game and make sure we get the same result.”

After splitting the regular-season series, Sporting bounced the Whitecaps from the playoffs in November, downing Vancouver 3-1 in a first-round matchup.

The way Kansas City ended Vancouver’s playoff run abruptly last year still lingers, White said.

“I think there’s a little bit of a sour taste left in our mouth from the last time we played them (in the playoffs),” he said. “So we’re looking forward to getting out there and competing as best we can.”

For Sartini, though, the drive to win doesn’t come from the prospect of revenge.

“The motivation is that after four games we have one point and we still need to make at least another 49 points to make the playoffs,” the coach said. “There’s no extra motivation because last year they beat us in the playoffs. The motivation is the objective to always be the best version of ourselves and try to win the games in front of us.”

Injury report: Defender Erik Godoy (left calf tightness) and midfielder Caio Alexandre (fitness/recovering from foot surgery) won’t be in Vancouver’s lineup, while midfielder Leonard Owusu (right foot contusion) is listed as questionable. Kansas City will be without midfielders Gadi Kinda (knee surgery) and Jose Mauri (unavailable), and forward Alan Pulido (knee surgery). Sporting defender Kortne Ford (ankle) and Uri Rosell (hamstring) are listed as questionable.

Road woes: Sporting has not fared well on the road recently, dropping five straight regular-season away games going back to last year. The club is 0-3-0 away from Kansas City this season.

History books: Sporting holds an 11-4-4 all-time record against the Whitecaps.