The Vancouver Whitecaps took on the Seattle Sounders in MLS action on Saturday night, losing 4-1 to their Cascadian rivals. Here’s our recap from that one.
It was a humbling way to come crashing down to earth.
For a Vancouver Whitecaps team that has been among the hottest in MLS as of late, undefeated in 16 of their last 18 games heading into their clash with the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, they looked to keep the good times going as they got set to face their Cascadian rivals down in Seattle.
Facing off against a team that was quite shorthanded, missing several key players, the ‘Caps felt like they could pick up a massive 3 points in this game, helping them in their ever-growing playoff push.
But alas, it wasn’t meant to be for the ‘Caps, who would fall 4-1 to the Sounders on the night, as a slow start put them in a hole that they just couldn’t get out of, leaving them to chase the game all night long.
With that, they continued their struggles against the Sounders, who are undefeated against the ‘Caps in their last 13 games now, having picked up 9 wins in that span, as they’ve continued to just find a way to take care of business whenever these 2 teams meet.
That was no exception in this one, as the Sounders were clinical offensively, and did what they needed to defensively, allowing them to cruise to a comfortable result, one that cemented their lead atop MLS’s Western Conference.
On the other hand, this was a tough blow for the ‘Caps, who remain below the playoff line after this loss, as they missed a chance to climb to 5th in the Western Conference with a win, leaving them to instead toil away in 8th, just 1 point below the 7th and final playoff spot.
But at the same time, this is a game the ‘Caps could afford to drop, so not all is lost for them. It’s hard enough to win away in MLS, especially not against one of the best teams in the league, so even though this Sounders team was shorthanded and ripe for the picking, there’s a reason why they’ve remained where they are despite dealing with injuries all year long.
Now, though, this puts pressure on the ‘Caps in their last 6 games, as they’ve got some tough matches ahead of them, but that was always going to be the case had they won this game or not, as the only thing that changed is the pressure that they’ll face in those games.
Returning to this game, though, the ‘Caps would succumb to some of that pressure quite early on in this one, as the Sounders would come out flying, managing to get off to a dream start right in the 5th minute.
Off of a corner, the ball was played short to Kelyn Rowe out wide, and he whipped in a lovely ball to the back post, one that would find an unmarked Shane O’Neill, who’d find a way to nod home the opener.
For the ‘Caps, it was a nightmare start, as the last thing they wanted to do early on in this game was to get the Seattle crowd into it, but alas, that’s what happened, leaving them to fight an uphill battle as the game went on.
It’d almost go from bad to worse in the 6th minute, too, as former Whitecap Fredy Montero found a bit of space at the edge of the box, and he got off a good shot with his left foot, but he’d send his shot just wide of the goal.
But then, that second goal would come in the 14th minute, as Seattle continued their hot start. After a nice bit of play from Will Bruin, he’d manage to find Nicolas Benezet with a low cross, and from there, the French winger did well to control the ball and strike it off the volley, powering home the chance.
All of a sudden, it put the Sounders in dreamland, as they were at home, cruising, which considering their lengthy absentee list heading into this game, was all that they could ask for from themselves through 15 minutes.
And continuing that, the Sounders then nearly added a 3rd in the 15th minute, as Benezet found a bit of space in the box off of a corner, and he sent a good shot towards goal, one that was only cleared off the line from the ‘Caps Florian Jungwirth. On the subsequent rebound, Jimmy Medranda then had a pretty good look of his own on his stronger left foot, but he sent his shot just wide, much to the relief of the ‘Caps.
Finally, after the strong Sounders start, the ‘Caps then finally got their first good look in the 17th minute, as Deiber Caicedo found a bit of space on the counter, and he did well to get a good shot off from outside of the box on his right foot, but his powerful strike would rattle the crossbar and stay out, keeping Seattle’s clean sheet intact.
But nearly right after, Seattle then continued to ramp the pressure up, as Benezet once again found some space in the box after a lovely cutback from Joao Paulo, and he sent a good shot towards goal, one that the ‘Caps Thomas Hasal only barely got a hand to in goal, keeping his team from going down by 3.
Then, though, the ‘Caps then found a lifeline before half. After the game died down for 20 minutes, the ‘Caps came alive right before the stroke of halftime, as they finally started to put pressure on the Sounders defence.
And that’d pay off for them right in the 44th minute, as they managed to cut the lead in half. After the always-dangerous Ryan Gauld did well to create some space for himself in the box, he first sent a dangerous shot towards Stefan Frei in the Seattle goal, one that’d be easily saved by the Sounders keeper. On the subsequent rebound, however, he then managed to find a wide-open Brian White for a cutback on the rebound, and the in-form ‘Caps striker made no mistake burying the chance for his 10th goal of the season.
It was a huge goal for the ‘Caps, as it gave them a desperately needed life preserver right as it felt like they were about to drown in the Seattle pressure. But that’s been White and Gauld for the ‘Caps as of late, as they’ve been among the best players in the league these past few weeks, and they came up big right when their team needed them most.
Heading into half time, that allowed them of being able to rescue something out of a game where it previously felt impossible, giving them something to play for as they got set to play the rest of the game.
But then, as quickly as they’d gotten back into the game, they’d then lose that momentum in the 55th minute, as the Sounders then found a 3rd.
Off of some lovely passing play, they carved through the ‘Caps defence like butter, passing the ball with ease, and that’d allow Will Bruin to find some space in the box, where he’d make no mistake with his strike, ripping it into the roof of the net to extend his teams’ lead.
Soon after, they’d nearly add to that lead, too, as Fredy Montero first had a speculative effort from distance that sailed wide in the 58th minute, before Joao Paulo came much closer with a shot from distance of his own right after, doing well to nearly tickle the edge of the bar.
Then, Benezet continued his strong game, as he found a bit of space for a volley at the edge of the box in the 61st minute, but his shot would be saved by Hasal, who’d put out 2 strong fists to deny the effort.
A few minutes later, Abdoulaye Cissoko then got a great header off on a deep set piece, but Hasal would stand tall to the effort, making a great save to keep his team alive.
Continuing their strong half, Paulo then got another good look at goal from distance in the 73rd minute, and he sent a beauty towards the low corner, one that just narrowly curled past the post, much to the relief of the ‘Caps.
After that, though, the ‘Caps then finally got their first good look of the half in the 74th minute, as Cristian Dajome managed to find his way through the Seattle defence, played in 1 on 1 with Seattle’s Stefan Frei, but the Sounders keeper would win that battle, picking up a massive save on Dajome’s low effort.
Less than 2 minutes later, the ‘Caps continued to push for a 2nd, as Dajome whipped in a ball that’d find White wide-open in the Sounders box, and he’d get good contact on the ball, but he’d somehow send the ball wide on the header.
But then, the Sounders would roar back the other way, and find an insurance marker in the 89th minute, as Leo Chu found his way behind the ‘Caps backline, and he got off a good shot, one that’d beat Hasal to put Seattle up 4-1.
And that’d be all this game had to offer, too, as the referee soon blew for the final whistle, leaving the ’Caps to lick their wounds after a tough result.
Did the Sounders deserve to win? Most certainly, as they were the better team throughout the game, and established a solid lead with their good start, but the ‘Caps also had every reason to feel hard done by the result, as they could’ve easily made something of the game had they brought their shooting boots down to Seattle.
So instead, the ‘Caps are now left to wonder where they went wrong, and now pick up the pieces ahead of their next match, a crucial clash with Sporting Kansas City at BC Place next Sunday, which with this result, is a game the ‘Caps need to win to keep pace in the playoff hunt.
Player of the Match: Deiber Caicedo
Otherwise, it was hard to pick a player of the game in a match like this, but that doesn’t mean that it was impossible, as Caicedo ultimately stood out as the brightest light in this one.
Considering that he hit a crossbar, completed all 3 of his dribbles, had 2 key passes and won 5 out of 9 of his duels, he was very involved offensively, doing all but score, doing his part to try and help the ‘Caps get a result.
But that’s not that surprising if you’ve been following the ‘Caps as of late. There’s a reason why Caicedo’s quietly been one of the best ‘Caps these past few months, and he showed that once again on Saturday, nearly allowing them to crawl back into this one.
Player to Watch: Cristian Dajome
Elsewhere, speaking of Colombian wingers who could’ve had a goal in this game, we’ve got Dajome, who was our player to watch heading into this one, as we looked for him to come up big for the ‘Caps after a big performance against Seattle earlier in the summer.
And to be fair, he did have a pretty good game for himself on Saturday, as he had 1 shot and 2 key passes, even though his finishing touch was a bit lacking at times.
But despite that, he kept working putting up a shift on both sides of the ball, as he always does, and while he wasn’t rewarded for that, it was good to see him not waver in his tireless efforts.
Heatmap of the Match:
Moving on, it was actually quite the positive performance from the ‘Caps in this section, one of the better ones we’ve seen from them in recent games.
Obviously, that was influenced by the score, as they were chasing for much of the game, but it does show that they could’ve maybe gotten more out of this match, as this certainly didn’t feel like a 4-1 game.
xG plot of the Match:
Lastly, the sentiment that the ‘Caps didn’t deserve to lose 4-1 is backed up by the Expected Goals (xG) plot, which shows that while the Sounders probably got the better overall chances, they didn’t do much better at generating chances than the ‘Caps did.
Where they had the advantage, though, was through their superior finishing, which made a big difference for them throughout the night, and this plot reflects that.
But despite that, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Sounders still most definitely deserved to win this game, leaving the ‘Caps to ponder about where it all went wrong for them in this one.
The good news after this, though? They now don’t play for 8 days, as their next game comes next Sunday at home, giving them time to recover and potentially welcome back some new faces to the lineup over the next few days.
So while this loss will certainly hurt for the next few days, the ‘Caps still find themselves in a decent position, and remain very alive in the playoff race, which is all anyone could ask from them at this stage of the season.
Because of that, they’ll look to keep their heads up as they start preparing for that SKC match next week, one that they’ll know that they have to win, and will look to come out for flying as a result of that.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Sporting Kansas City, Sunday, October 17th, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT
Cover Photo via: Seattle Sounders/Twitter