Cascadia Chaos: Slumping Vancouver Whitecaps pick up surprise 2-2 draw against league-leading Seattle Sounders in entertaining derby clash

The Vancouver Whitecaps snapped a 5-game losing streak on Saturday, as they picked up a 2-2 road draw against the Seattle Sounders. Here’s our match report from that one. 

It might have only been a draw, but for the Vancouver Whitecaps, it must’ve felt like a win. 

Losers of 5 straight games heading into Saturday’s clash with current MLS Supporters Shield leaders, the Seattle Sounders, all the Whitecaps could’ve asked for in a game like this was a point, no matter if it came via a win or a draw. 

Against their Cascadian rivals, the Sounders, a team that they haven’t beaten since 2017, it felt like anything but a loss would be seen as positive for a team that was quickly fading after a bright start. 

So for them to come out and pick up a big 2-2 away draw against the Sounders is huge, as they managed to snap a 5-game losing streak with the point. 

“There’s two things that we addressed the last two days,” ‘Caps head coach Marc Dos Santos said after the game. “It’s the why of coming out and sometimes lacking little things to dictate the game, and we also spoke about making big plays at the end of games.”

And it’s that execution that was most important about this game from the ‘Caps perspective, as they showed good fight back and clinical execution, two things that have often eluded them at times in 2021.

Having gone down 1-0 in the first half, they did well to fight back and make the game 2-1, before a Seattle equalizer slightly spoiled what otherwise was a great performance from the ‘Caps. 

“I read a lot about losing the locker room (this week),” Dos Santos said. “A locker room that’s lost doesn’t answer like that. Incredible commitment from the guys.”

Thanks to some second-half magic from Cristian Dajome, who had 1 goal and 1 assist, the ‘Caps now have a bit of wind back in their sails ahead of 2 big games against teams close to them in the standings, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake. 

Against a team that many expected them to fold against, they managed to play some of their best football that we’ve seen from the all season, allowing them to grab an unlikely result. 

To start, though, both teams came out of the gate slowly, struggling to adapt to the tough conditions the match was played in, as the temperature hovered between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius thanks to a heatwave that is currently going through the Pacific Northwest. 

That wreaked havoc on the first 20 minutes of the game, as neither team came close to scoring other than some half-chances from both teams’ strikers, but both Lucas Cavallini and Raul Ruidiaz failed to make the difference on either of their opportunities. 

Seattle continued to control possession, however, but didn’t find a way to make the most of it. They did find some joy off of set pieces, though, and they came close to finding an opener in the 23rd minute, as Yeimar Gomez did well to get up and meet a cross from Joao Paulo off of a corner, but the Colombian centre back glanced his header just over the bar. 

At the other end, the ‘Caps then found the best chance of the game up to that point, as Cristian Gutierrez sent in a great cross to the back post, where an unmarked Caio Alexandre managed to get his head to the ball, but his attempt slid just wide. 

The Sounders would nearly punish the ‘Caps for that near-miss a few minutes later, as Abdoulaye Cissoko managed to get up to another fantastic Paulo ball, but he too headed just wide, giving the ‘Caps a break. 

But the longer the game went on, you just knew that Seattle would show up and break Vancouver’s heart, and that moment came in the 42nd minute. After Michael Baldisimo was dispossessed in midfield, Seattle countered quickly and effectively, allowing full back Brad Smith to set up Ruidiaz for a tap-in, giving the Peruvian striker his league-leading 9th goal of this young MLS season. 

For the ‘Caps, it was a heartbreaking goal to give up, as they’d done well to hang with Seattle up to that point, and were arguably the better team, yet had to content themselves with chasing the rest of the game down a goal against a team that doesn’t really give up leads. 

To give credit to the ‘Caps, though, they kept on fighting, and nearly found an immediate response, right before halftime. Deiber Caicedo, who was Vancouver’s bright spot through the first 45 minutes, managed to slip in behind the Seattle defence, but Stefan Cleveland did well to get off his line and throw his leg out at Caicedo’s low shot, keeping Seattle ahead. 

So overall, it wasn’t the worst half from the ‘Caps, far from it, but it was a frustrating one, as they still found themselves behind the 8 ball heading into the 2nd half despite playing well. 

“He (Dos Santos) told us to stay calm,” ‘Caps winger Cristian Dajome said of their halftime via an interpreter. “We played a good first half, we had the ball, we just didn’t create enough.”

But for a team that is yet to score a first-half goal in 2021, that’s just been a reality this ‘Caps team has been all too used to, and that was the case once again on Saturday. 

Surprisingly, though, the ‘Caps would then find a bit of life in the second half. Despite being down, away from home, against the team at the top of the league standings, they fought their way back into the game. 

Shortly after Will Bruin picked up a decent half-chance for the Sounders, the ‘Caps found their opener in the 46th minute, as Alexandre atoned for his earlier miss by making a fantastic through ball, one that found Cristian Dajome in behind the Sounders defence. One on one with Cleveland, he then slipped the ball around the Seattle keeper, giving him an empty net, one that he slid the ball into with confidence. 

For the ‘Caps, it was a huge goal, as it re-inserted the belief that they’d started to build in the first half before the Sounders scored, giving them hope of picking up a result later on in the second half. 

And thanks to the momentum picked up after that goal, the ‘Caps then picked up the lead in the 56th minute, as Dajome continued his strong 2nd half. After a nice ball out wide from Andy Rose, Dajome looked up and whipped in a fantastic cross, one that was so nice that it bounced off of Lucas Cavallini and in, as the striker just had to stick out a limb and hope that the ball would roll in. 

All of a sudden, the ‘Caps were in front, giving them a real chance at winning the match, something that nearly no one would’ve expected from them coming into this game. 

But to do that, they’d have to hold off a Seattle onslaught, one that started to happen immediately after that 2nd goal. 

First, Cristian Roldan came close with a strike inside the box in the 59th minute, before former Whitecap and second-half Seattle substitute, Fredy Montero, also sent a good effort wide in the 64th minute. 

Inspired by that short burst of effort, Seattle then got a fantastic chance in the 65th minute, as Ruidiaz got a good look at goal inside the box, but Crepeau found a way to get his hand to the attempt, keeping his team in the lead. 

From the ‘Caps perspective, though, it just felt like a goal was coming, and that unfortunately proved to be the case in the 71st minute, as Jimmy Medranda found some space at the edge of the box on a corner, and the ball bounced to him perfectly, allowing him to slam the ball home through a crowd of bodies to tie up the game for the Sounders. 

After having done so well to get the lead, it was a gut punch for the ‘Caps, who had started to sit back after the goal, but it was one that was coming, as it’s hard to keep the Sounders quiet when they grow into a game. 

And grow into the game they would continue to do, as they desperately chased a late winner. Montero, Ruidiaz, Medranda and Cristian Roldan would all find some good chances inside the box, but all of their shots would sail just over, keeping Crepeau safe in the ‘Caps goal. 

That push would continue into the late stages of the game, as second-half substitute Kelyn Rowe then delivered a fantastic ball into the box in the 93rd minute, finding Montero with the cross, but the former Whitecap couldn’t find a way to sink his former club with his looped header into Crepeau’s arms. 

But almost surprisingly, the ‘Caps managed to hold off the late storm, keeping the game at 2-2. Even more impressively, they almost scored a late winner, too, as Cristian Gutierrez found Brian White with less than a minute to go, but the new ‘Caps striker’s header fell comfortably into Cleveland’s hands. 

Overall, though, it was a solid performance for the ‘Caps, all things considered. They had a strong start, came back from down 1-0 against the top team in MLS, and managed to hold on for a point. 

Should they have held onto their lead? Probably, as they certainly do themselves any favours by sitting back after going up a goal, but they’re not the only team who has failed to keep a lead against the Sounders, as that’s more indicative of how good Seattle is. 

So ultimately, it’s a good performance, as the ‘Caps managed to snap a 5-game losing run despite not being given much of a chance heading into this one, making it a positive result from a more global perspective.

“Yeah it was a difficult game against a strong team,” Dajome said. “Of course, they play really well whenever they’re at home, they’re a threat. Fortunately for us, we showed some great things, things we’ve been working on in training, and I thought we were really strong.”

Player of the Match: Cristian Dajome

And a big reason for that was the play of Dajome in that second half, making him an easy choice for our player of the match. After a decent first half, he turned things on in the 2nd, picking up that key equalizing goal, before setting up the go-ahead assist right after. 

Now, with his goal and his assist in this game, he has now directly been involved in 6 out of 10 of the Whitecaps goals this year (60%), as he’s quietly been the team’s most effective offensive player in 2021. 

For a ‘Caps team that struggles to score, they need him to continue to find a way to step up, as they’ve got points in 3 out of the 4 games in which he directly contributes to a goal, showing his influence on this ‘Caps team. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Maxime Crepeau

Otherwise, we picked Crepeau as the player to watch in this game, and he lived up to that, making some good saves to help the ‘Caps keep their point. 

He might be wishing that he could’ve gotten a hand to the 2nd goal, but to be fair to him, he was heavily screened on that shot, making it hard to put him at fault for it. 

So overall, it was a good performance from Crepeau, who continues to be a rock in goal for the ‘Caps, proving why he’s such an important piece for this side. 

Heatmap of the Match:

Moving onto the heatmap section, it was a pretty good performance for the ‘Caps in this department, as they did have a few forays into the Sounders final third, and mostly kept Seattle out of the dangerous areas inside their box. 

Considering that it was an away game against the current league leaders, it’s hard to find fault here, making this one of their best performances in this section so far in 2021. 

xG plot of the match:

Lastly, it was good to see the ‘Caps create a good chunk of Expected Goals (xG), especially against one of the best defensive teams in MLS. 

As seen here, their 2 goals came off of 2 really high-percentage looks inside the box from open play, which against a Seattle team that barely gives up much open play xG, let alone actual goals, is a big reason why they won the game. 

Defensively, they did allow a good chunk of xG, which is a bit of a worry, but again, considering the circumstances of the game, the ‘Caps will certainly take it. 

Looking Forward:

So now, the ‘Caps will look to bottle up any positive momentum that they might have built up from this game and take it into next week, where a huge match against Dallas awaits them. 

With Dallas sitting just 1 point behind the ‘Caps as of writing, making them the lone team to sit below the ‘Caps in the Western Conference standings, this game could be huge for both teams, as a potential winner could create a bit of separation from the bottom of the table. 

Plus, for Vancouver, it’d make this game a waste if they were unable to get anything out of next weekend, as they’ve still only picked up points in 1 of their last 6 games. 

But overall, until that game comes around, it’s important to extract the positives from this game for Vancouver, and make no mistake, it certainly was a good match for them as a whole. 

“Football can be like that sometimes,” Dajome said. “It can be unfair, sometimes the best games you play you lose, and sometimes you don’t play well and you win. Today, that wasn’t the case, we played well, and it’s a step forward after a tough 5 games.”

Striker Lucas Cavallini added: “We still have a lot in front of us, there’s still a lot of games going forward, so here, we set the tone, we just had to get out of that last week we were going through.”

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs FC Dallas, Sunday, July 4th, 17:30 PDT, 20:30 EDT (Toyota Park, Frisco)

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