A week removed from their 1-0 loss to Cascadian rivals, the Portland Timbers, the ‘Caps fell to 0W-3L-0D against their Cascadian foes this season, as they fell by a score of 3-1 to the Seattle Sounders on Saturday. Here is our report from that one, as they lost their 3rd consecutive game, putting them back into the Western Conference basement.
If you’re Seattle, good things come in 3s when you play against Vancouver.
For the second time this season, the Seattle Sounders put up a 3 spot over their Cascadian rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps, this time beating the ‘Caps by a score of 3-1 at CenturyLink Field on Saturday, doing well to build off of the 3-0 victory they had over the ‘Caps at MLS is Back in July.
It was a tough game for the ‘Caps, who started out strong, nearly snatching an early lead, before ultimately falling apart early in the second half, as the Sounders scored 3 times inside 15 minutes to close out the match.
While the Whitecaps made things interesting with a 65th-minute goal, it was just not enough to topple the Sounders, who showed their credentials as one of the best teams in MLS with their overall performance.
They sent wave-after-wave towards the Vancouver goal, and were probably unlucky to score only three, as Bryan Meredith made some big saves for the ‘Caps, while Seattle also snatched at a few of their chances.
To start the game, the Whitecaps made 2 changes from their side that lost 1-0 to Portland last week, as Derek Cornelius came in for Cristian Gutierrez, while David Milinkovic came in for Leonard Owusu. To balance things out, Andy Rose moved up to midfield from centre back, allowing Cornelius to come in, while Ali Adnan slotted back in at left back after having played left midfield last week, leaving Milinkovic to take his spot.
On the other side, the Sounders only made 1 change to the lineup that beat the LA Galaxy last week, with Raul Ruidiaz slotting in for Will Bruin up front, as they looked to build on their solid perch atop the Western Conference standings.
Seattle would come out strong, nearly scoring inside the first minute, which for a ‘Caps team who had conceded early goals in their last 2 games, gave them a big scare. After a nice Raul Ruidiaz flick off of a nice Kelvin Leerdam cross, Nico Lodeiro lined up for a shot just outside of the box, but his curled shot hit just the outside of the goal.
At the other end, the ‘Caps would nearly break the deadlock with a surprise opener, as Ali Adnan sent in a wonderful cross right into the box, finding Lucas Cavallini at the edge of the 6 yard box, but the striker sent his shot right at Frei to give the Sounders a much-needed break.
After that, the game would hit a bit of a lull, but Seattle found some offensive life to close out the half. First, Raul Ruidiaz found himself unmarked in the box after a Nico Lodeiro cross after a wide set-piece in the 27th minute, but he sent his header just wide.
Not long after, Jordan Morris headed another Lodeiro cross just wide, this time from the left side, as the Uruguayan playmaker continued to cause fits for the Whitecaps with his dangerous crosses.
And tired of playing provider for his teammates, Lodeiro nearly scored a worldie to close out the half, as he set up for a volley at the edge of the box after a nice ball from Joao Paulo on the corner, but his powerful attempt was just pushed out by Bryan Meredith in the ‘Caps goal.
So for the ‘Caps, who made it to half time without conceding a goal, it was certainly relieving for them to still be in the game through 45 minutes, especially after seeing how the early goals they conceded tanked their chances in their two prior results.
You throw in the Sounders’ strong credentials as Western Conference leaders, and it was absolutely a positive start for the ‘Caps, who could’ve easily been leading considering they had arguably the best chance with the early Cavallini attempt that was kept out by Frei.
Ultimately, they just needed to find some life in the second half, as they faced a daunting last 45 minutes against a Seattle team that looked to ramp up the pressure and try to put them to bed with a strong finish.
But unfortunately for the ‘Caps, that dream died pretty fast in the second half, as Seattle came out flying.
They’d open the scoring in the 47th minute, as Joao Paulo found some space at the top of the box, and he had a great hit towards goal, finding the low corner with a heat-seeking missile of a strike. After they defended so well throughout the first 45 minutes, it was a tough blow for the ‘Caps, who were way too slow in closing down Paulo, and he made them pay for their defensive lapse in concentration.
Soon after, the Sounders doubled their lead, as they continued to push. Cristian Roldan would find some space down the right-hand side, and he sent in a low cross, one that Byran Meredith did well to get a hand too, but unfortunately for him, his palmed clearance would hit the back of Erik Godoy’s leg and trickle into the net for the own goal.
Seattle would continue to push, and they’d find a 3rd in the 59th minute. Not long after a Gustav Svensson strike won a corner for Seattle, they sent in a juicy ball, one that Morris would flick on, finding Raul Ruidiaz unmarked at the back post for an easy header.
Almost surprisingly, however, the ‘Caps would find the next goal, as against the run of play, Cavallini was fouled at the edge of the box by Yeimar in the 62nd minute, forcing the ref to call the penalty. While the foul itself could be debated, especially in its nature and location, Fredy Montero didn’t worry about that, as he stepped up and scored a cheeky panenka to cut the score to 3-1.
But the comeback push would take a big hit not long after, as Janio Bikel would get sent off for a straight red card in the 68th minute, catching Svensson with a late and errant foul high up the Swedish midfielder’s leg. For a ‘Caps team looking to get back into the game, it was a tough blow, as it took away all of the momentum that they had gained from their goal.
And Seattle took advantage of the extra man to push, but they were unable to find a breakthrough. Lodeiro came close with a pair of good chances in the 71st minute, one with his left foot and the other with his head, before sending a good shot on an open net well over the goal less than a minute later, much to the relief of Vancouver.
Despite the Seattle push, Vancouver would find a way to mitigate the bleeding, as Meredith continued to stand tall. He made a huge save in the 88th minute, as Roldan snuck in behind the ‘Caps defence, but Meredith stuck out a leg to deny the low strike from the American midfielder.
The game would end not long after for the ‘Caps, much to their relief, as the ref would blow for full time.
All-in-all, it was a tough performance for the ‘Caps, who did well to stay in the game through 45 minutes, but let things get away from themselves after the half. In a game that they had every chance of winning heading into the second half, that is a bit worrying, as they’d shown that they can make things happen against a good team, yet struggled to keep up when the going got tough.
Ultimately, as has been the case for most of this ‘Caps season, their inconsistency continues to plague them, as their tendency to switch off during games has been a big worry for most of the year.
Man of the Match: Bryan Meredith
It was hard to pick a man of the match in this scenario, but Meredith gets our nod, because, despite the scoreline, he was far from being the problem on the night.
He made some big saves, including some when the game was close, and did a good job at keeping this game a lot closer than it should be.
For a ‘Caps team going through a bit of a crisis in terms of injuries to their goalkeepers, it’s been good to see Meredith slowly ramp up his performance level, even despite the ‘Caps defensive struggles in front of him.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Fredy Montero
We pegged Montero as one to watch before this game, and he lived up to the billing, as he was lively up top for the ‘Caps.
He dropped in between lines, made some good passes, and was rewarded for his efforts with a well-taken penalty to score his 3rd of the year, putting him atop of the 2020 Whitecaps goalscoring charts alongside Cristian Dajome.
With Cavallini suspended for the next game, expect more of Montero in their next game, on Wednesday versus the San Jose Earthquakes, as he looks to continue his hot offensive run for the ‘Caps.
Heatmap of the game:
To give you an idea of how this game went for Vancouver, this heatmap sums it up…
They just struggled to break apart Seattle, and it hurt them, as they didn’t generate enough offensively to threaten a solid Sounders team.
Now, another tough game awaits the Whitecaps, because as mentioned earlier, they travel to San Jose to take on the Earthquakes on Wednesday.
While the Earthquakes are only 2 points ahead of the ‘Caps in the West, and have faced their struggles this season, they’re fresh off of big victories over LAFC and the LA Galaxy, two results that have thrown them right back into the playoff race.
When you add in the fact that the ‘Quakes and their head coach Matias Almeyda have won 3 out of 3 games they’ve played against the ‘Caps and Marc Dos Santos, scoring 9 goals and only conceding 5 along the way, and it won’t be easy for Vancouver.
But after 3 tough losses, all the ‘Caps can do is try to keep their chin up and try and go to San Jose with their heads up, seeing what they can get out of that one.
As they risk falling out of the playoff picture, this next game becomes a must-win for them, because if not, it’s hard to imagine them making these expanded playoffs, no matter how tight things remain from the top to bottom in the Western Conference.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Earthquakes, Wednesday, October 7th, 2020, 19:30 PST (Avaya Stadium, San Jose)
Cover Photo via: Matthew Stith/MLS