Seattle Surprise: Vancouver Whitecaps looking to shock MLS Supporter Shield favourites Seattle Sounders in Cascadian clash

The Vancouver Whitecaps will take on the Seattle Sounders in a Cascadian clash on Saturday. Here’s our preview ahead of that one. 

It’s derby day. 

For the 2nd time in 2021, the Vancouver Whitecaps are getting set to take on Cascadian rivals, as they’ll take on the Seattle Sounders in Seattle on Saturday. 

Having played their other Cascadian rivals, the Portland Timbers, all the way back in their 1st back in the season, this is a chance to build off of what they showed in that game against the Timbers, a game which they did win 1-0. 

Heading into this game having lost 5 games in a row, however, the ‘Caps will certainly hope that they can recapture their form from that match, as they’ll look to avoid continuing their fall towards the bottom of the Western Conference with another loss. 

Against this Seattle team, however, it won’t be easy, as the Sounders enter the game as the only undefeated side left in MLS through just over 2 months of action. With 24 points out of a possible 30 through 10 games, they’ve been a force to be reckoned with, which makes this a tough matchup for a reeling ‘Caps side. 

With all of that in mind, here’s what to look for in this game, one in which the ‘Caps will hope to buck the trend and surprise many by getting a result Saturday. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Maxime Crepeau

To start, we’ll go with our player to watch for this game, and that’ll be Maxime Crepeau, as he’ll be looking for a positive performance after having given up 11 goals in his last 5 games. 

After having given up only 3 goals in the first 4 games of the season, it’s been a rough couple of games for Crepeau and his defence in front of him, and against the Seattle team that has the 2nd-most goals in MLS with 18, things won’t get any easier for him on Saturday. 

So with that in mind, keep a close eye on him, as he actually tends to thrive in these games where he gets peppered, and based on what the numbers say, this looks like a game where that’ll be the case for him and his ‘Caps defence. 

Storylines:

Elsewhere, here are some storylines to keep an eye on during this game. 

Seattle’s supremacy: 

And when it’s said that Seattle is the heavy favourite heading into this game, the numbers back that up. They’re leading the Supporters Shield race with 24 points, they’ve got the second-best offence, the best defence, and just have overall hardly looked threatened in most games. 

Despite missing their star #10 Nico Lodeiro for all but one game, they’ve been the team to beat in 2021, which is bad news for a ‘Caps team that is currently at their lowest point. 

So because of all that, just getting anything out of this game would be huge for the ‘Caps, as they look to snap their losing run. 

Vancouver’s tough run against Seattle:

And while Seattle’s 2021 dominance is a big reason for the pessimism surrounding the ‘Caps heading into this game, another big reason for that is the fact that the ‘Caps have overall just struggled to beat the Sounders these past few years, period. 

Heading into this game, the ‘Caps have lost 7 of their last 8 games against Seattle, with their last win coming all the way back in 2017, when they beat them 2-1. Since then, the Sounders have had their number and then some, making this Cascadian rivalry a very one-sided one. 

So while the Sounders’ current form is to be monitored heading into this game, the long-term history also doesn’t favour the ‘Caps, truly making this a proper David vs Goliath clash. 

‘Caps road form a worry:

Plus, only adding to the worries for the ‘Caps, it’s the fact that this game will be played on the road, which has not been an area of strength for this team. 

Dating back to last year, they’ve only picked up 1 win in the last 14 games where they’ve been the road team, only picking up 4 points out of a possible 42 points over that span. 

Against a Sounders team that hasn’t lost at home in 15 games (regular season and playoffs), any sort of road points in this game would feel like a miracle for Vancouver, especially with their poor form. 

The positive news for them, however? The last team to beat Seattle at home was fellow Cascadian foes, the Portland Timbers, so the ‘Caps will hope that they can find some similar magic in this game. 

Stats Splurge:

When it’s said that the Sounders are favourites heading into this game, the numbers back it up, as they’ve got a clear advantage over the ‘Caps in nearly every category. 

In terms of Expected Goals (xG), the Sounders are 5th in MLS with 1.02 xG against per game, and are 8th with 1.55 xG for. Because of that, they’re 3rd in the league with an expected goal difference of 0.78 per game, showing that their unique combo of timely offence and stout defence is a big reason for why they are where they are right now. 

On the other side, the ‘Caps find themselves at the opposite end of the ledger, as they’re 7th-last in xG for with 1.18 per game, and are 10th-last with 1.52 xG against per game. 

Because of that, they’re 10th-last in expected goal difference per game, which to be fair, considering they’re a bottom 5 team in MLS right now, shows that they’ve maybe been a bit unlucky, but despite that, they’re at a significant disadvantage against the Sounders. 

The one thing to watch out for, however? The possession numbers, as the ‘Caps actually aren’t far off in that stat for once, as they hold an average of 47.2% of the ball a game, which is actually better than the Sounders and the 46.8% of the ball that they hold. 

That’s scary for Vancouver, as it shows that Seattle doesn’t even need much of the ball to hurt them, but they will get a chance to hold the ball Saturday, which could be a good thing if they make the most of that opportunity. 

Projected XIs: 

Vancouver Whitecaps:

Record: 2W-6L-1D (7 PTS)

Head Coach: Marc Dos Santos

Seattle Sounders: 

Record: 7W-0L-3D (24 PTS)

Head Coach: Brian Schmetzer

2020 Matchups: 

Seattle Sounders 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-2 Seattle Sounders

Looking Forward:

So now, the ‘Caps will look to make the impossible a possibility in this game, as they get set to one of the biggest David vs Goliath matchups of this young MLS season. 

And to do it, they’ll have to face some unique conditions, as the weather in Seattle at kickoff is expected to be well over 30 degrees Celsius, as a heatwave continues to rip through the Pacific Northwest. 

But for a ‘Caps team up against it in nearly every aspect on the pitch, maybe the hot weather will be what they need to surprise onlookers, as they look to put out the fire that is the Sounders on Saturday. 

It won’t be easy, without a doubt, but they’ll have belief that they can make it happen, so it’ll be interesting now to see if they can make that dream a reality. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders, Saturday, June 26th, 2021, 18:00 PDT, 21:00 EDT (Lumen Field, Seattle)

Cover Photo via: MLS/Matthew Stith

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