Sounder Searching: Vancouver Whitecaps looking to snap lengthy drought vs Seattle Sounders in crucial game for playoff hopes, Cascadia Cup aspirations

The Vancouver Whitecaps are getting set to take on the Seattle Sounders in a crucial game on Saturday. Here’s our preview ahead of that one.

The journey continues. 

As they continue their quest towards an MLS playoff spot this weekend, the Vancouver Whitecaps know that they’ll be in tough in their next game, a clash with their longtime rivals, the Seattle Sounders, on Saturday. 

Facing off against the top team in MLS’s Western Conference, the ‘Caps are just looking to prove that they’re good enough to be among the top 7 of 13 teams in the conference at the end of the season, allowing them to compete in the playoffs for the first time since 2017. 

Riding a 4-match unbeaten streak, one that’s come part of a run that has seen them go undefeated in 16 out of their last 18 games in MLS play, the ‘Caps have been fighting tooth and nail to be in the playoffs at the end of the year, having done well to even push themselves to within 1 point of a playoff spot (with a game in hand on a lot of teams) heading into this game. 

With only 7 games remaining, though, they now need to find a way to maintain their run, and maybe even take a step forward if possible, allowing them to push over that playoff line, a bar which many teams are battling to be over at the end of the season. 

Because of that, though, this Seattle game looms large for the ‘Caps. Facing off against a team that has had their number in recent years, as the Sounders are riding a 12 game undefeated run against Vancouver heading into this game, the ‘Caps are looking to pick up their first victory against Seattle since April of 2017, and first victory in Seattle since March of 2016. 

But at the same time, the ‘Caps are feeling quite optimistic about their chances heading into this one. Their last meeting with Seattle was in Seattle a few months ago, where the ‘Caps managed to snatch a 2-2 draw off of a Seattle team that was the hottest in MLS at the time, snapping a 5-game losing streak of their own in the process. 

Plus, with this game being during the international break, both teams are going to be riddled with absences, which given Seattle’s lengthy list of international players, actually gives the ‘Caps a slight advantage. 

So while the ‘Caps will be in tough without usual starters Maxime Crepeau (Canada) and Javain Brown (Jamaica), who are with their respective countries during this international break (and will ironically play each other on the Sunday after this game), considering that Cristian Roldan (US), Alex Roldan (El Salvador), Nouhou (Cameroon), Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) and Raul Ruidiaz (Peru) are all out for Seattle, Vancouver isn’t in such a bad spot comparatively.

Plus the ‘Caps are going to be welcoming back Cristian Gutierrez to the squad this weekend after a lengthy absence, only leaving Andy Rose, Ranko Veselinovic, Erik Godoy and Lucas Cavallini as the remaining injured players, with all of them being listed day-to-day, leaving them in a pretty good position in terms of player availability at the moment.

Because of that, there’s no reason why the ‘Caps can’t dream of being able to head down to Seattle and make a great escape, one that sees them leave with all 3 points in their pocket. Seeing that this is their game in hand that they hold over some of their rivals, picking up a win against Seattle would put them in a great position with 6 games to go, really cementing their status as a potential playoff team.

Considering that their next 2 games come against the 2nd-best team in the West, Sporting Kansas City, and one of the hottest teams in the West, the 4th-placed Portland Timbers, a victory here could set the tone ahead of those games.

As one of the hottest teams in MLS, the ‘Caps have been getting points off of nearly everyone they’ve played lately, and they will need to continue that sort of form in this game.

Plus, if the motivation of the playoff push isn’t enough for them, it’s also worth remembering that this is a Cascadia Cup game, which is the unofficial competition for games between Cascadia rivals Seattle, Vancouver and Portland.

Seeing that the ‘Caps lost their first game of the Cascadia Cup by losing to Portland (their early-season draw vs Seattle and win vs Portland aren’t counted this year since fans weren’t really allowed back in stadiums at the time), a win here would mean a lot in their hopes there, helping them catch up to Portland, who have 6 points from 3 Cascadia Cup games (each team will play 4).

So seeing all of that, there’s a lot at stake for the ‘Caps heading into this one. From their chance to make up some key ground in the playoff race, to their chance to help their chances at winning a trophy they haven’t won since 2016, they can give their fans plenty to cheer about with a victory in this one, and they’re well aware of that.

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Cristian Dajome

Cristian Dajome in action at BC Place earlier this year (Keveren Guillou)

Otherwise, our player to watch this game will be the guy who made the biggest impact the last time these two teams met, and that’s Dajome, who scored a goal and added an assist in that 2-2 draw this summer.

Seeing that his goal production has slowed down after a red-hot run in midseason, due to a multitude of factors that have included him needing to play out of position and the emergence of Brian White and Ryan Gauld as the team’s main attacking threats as of late, there’d be no better way for him to get back onto the scoresheet than with a tally in this one.

As one of the most consistent players on the ‘Caps, one who always seems to find a way to give his all on the pitch, it’d be nice to see him rewarded that one in this game, but goal or not, expect a big performance from him in this one, no matter what.

Storylines: 

Elsewhere, here are some storylines that are standing out for us ahead of this one.

Montero’s revenge:

To start, it’s pretty interesting to note that this will be the second reunion between the ‘Caps and Fredy Montero, who the ‘Caps lost to Seattle this offseason after he’d spent 2 years with the club.

Considering that Montero only really broke through in his career at the Sounders at the beginning of last decade, though, making the city his home, it wasn’t surprising to see him return despite having 2 stints with the ‘Caps in between, but it still hurts given how good he was for Vancouver the last 2 years.

So keep an eye out for him in this one. He has a knack for scoring against his former teams, and will probably be starting this game after coming off the bench the first time these teams met, and you know that he’ll be itching to score a goal, especially one that can help sink the ‘Caps playoff hopes.

Stop the road woes:

But while the ‘Caps will want to stop Montero in that quest and try to pick up a win, they have a problem of their own to conquer in this game, and that’s their road form over recent years.

Firstly, they haven’t won a Cascadian away game since 2018, and secondly, they have only won once in their last 18 road games in MLS, which shows how tall of a task this will be for the ‘Caps.

They’ve actually been better on the road as of late, undefeated in their last 8 games away from home, but only one of those has been wins, something that they’ll want to change heading into this one.

White-hot form:

Lastly, it’s going to be intriguing to see how the ‘Caps current starting striker, Brian White, performs in this one, as he heads into this game fresh off of a big hat trick in a 3-0 ‘Caps win over the San Jose Earthquakes last weekend.

In the midst of a run that has seen him score 8 goals in his last 9 games, he has become the ‘Caps leading scorer in MLS, and is one of the hottest strikers in the league right now, even earning player of the week nods for his play last weekend, becoming the first Whitecap since Alphonso Davies in June of 2018 to earn such an honour.

So while we don’t have him as our player to watch this week, keep an eye on him, as he looks to continue this run of form, which all started after the arrival of DP #10 Ryan Gauld, who has formed a nice partnership with White, and will aim to keep their connection going heading into this one.

Projected XIs: 

Vancouver Whitecaps:

Record: 9W-8L-10D (37 PTS)

Head Coach: Vanni Sartini

Seattle Sounders:

Record: 16W-5L-6D (54 PTS)

Head Coach: Brian Schmetzer

2021 Matchup: 

Seattle Sounders 2-2 Vancouver Whitecaps

Looking Forward: 

So with all of that in mind, look for a big game from these ‘Caps, as they look to reverse their recent history on the road in both Cascadia competition and in MLS play at large.

As one of the hottest teams in MLS right now, no reason why they can’t head into this game and dream of all 3 points, but in order to make that dream a reality, they must continue what they’ve been doing, and maybe even find another level on top of that, allowing them to take down the Sounders.

In their hunt to return to the playoffs, they’re well aware of how big a game like this could be for them in that quest, and they’ll look to put up a performance that reflects that on Saturday, allowing them to pick up a memorable Cascadian victory.

Considering that they do have a history that includes some memorable victories in this stadium, this is the time to add to them, and they’ll look to do so on Saturday.

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders, Saturday, October 9th, 2021, 18:00 PDT, 21:00 EDT (Lumen Field, Seattle)

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