The Vancouver Whitecaps are getting set to take on the Seattle Sounders at BC Place on Sunday. Here’s our preview ahead of that one.
It’s all come down to Decision Day.
204 days and 33 games after they started their season, the Vancouver Whitecaps are getting set to play their 34th of 34 games this 2021 MLS campaign on Sunday, when they’ll take on the Seattle Sounders at BC Place.
And what a journey it’s been just to get to this point. A hot start, an early-summer swoon, some mid-summer moves, a fired head coach and a surprise late push later, the ‘Caps enter this final matchday in one of the 7 vaunted Western Conference playoff spots, a position they can end the day in, provided everything goes their way.
After sitting near the bottom of the West for most of the first half of the campaign, the ‘Caps came on in a big way in the second half, picking up 31 of their 48 points in their last 15 games (they only picked up 17 in their first 18 games), allowing them to make what seemed like a distant dream a possibility.
So that they head into Decision Day in control of their destiny is wild, yet it’s real – if the ‘Caps pick up at least a draw on Sunday, they will guarantee their return to the postseason for the first time since 2017 (and in some cases, a loss could even suffice).
But that’s been the ‘Caps as of late. From back to front, led by interim head coach Vanni Sartini, they’re all pulling the same way at the moment, not only picking up results, but playing some pretty decent soccer along the way, entertaining fans and neutral observers alike with their new style of play.
Coming off of some lean years, soccer is back in Vancouver, and they can confirm that on Sunday, allowing them to return to a spot among the top dogs in MLS, a place they hadn’t occupied in far too long.
At the same time, though, it’s not as if them making the playoffs is a sure deal, and because of that, they need to take care of business on Sunday.
Yes, they only need a draw, but they happen to be faced off against the 2nd-best team in MLS this season, the Seattle Sounders, a team that the ‘Caps haven’t beat since 2017, making them a bogey team of sorts.
The good news, though, is that boosting them for this game against the Sounders will be a crowd of 22 000+ fans at BC Place on Sunday, which will be the biggest home crowd that the ‘Caps will have played in front of since the pandemic.
Sensing the importance of this game, fans are going to come out in droves, especially with there no longer being a capacity limit at sporting events in British Columbia, and that’s hoped that can give the boost that the ‘Caps need to make something of this game.
Considering that the ‘Caps have pretty much been untouchable at BC Place since returning earlier this year, that’s good news for Vancouver, and they’ll look to take advantage of that, allowing them to sing their new victory anthem, ‘Stand By Me’, at the end of the match.
So while they’ll get thrown Seattle’s best at them, as the Sounders are looking to finish 1st in the West with a result, and are welcoming back some key recruits to help them do that, the ‘Caps will also look to counter with a formidable effort of their own, making this a game to watch.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Maxime Crepeau
And in a game to watch, there are also always players to keep an eye on, and for the ‘Caps, there might be no better player to monitor in this one than Crepeau, who has been one of the best goalkeepers in MLS all season long, and will want to prove that once again in this one.
Considering that all the ‘Caps need is a draw, that means that if they don’t concede any goals, they’ll be assured of that result, so if Crepeau plays like he as for his team as of late, he certainly has the skills to help make that happen.
Plus, with the next Canadian National Team camp just around the corner, Crepeau will have extra motivation to put him one last great performance before then, as he’s in the midst of a battle to be Canada’s #1 goalkeeper for some crucial World Cup qualifiers next week.
So all-in-all, there’s a lot of reason for Crepeau to want to come out strongly in this one, and seeing how good he’s been for the ‘Caps all season long, arguably their MVP, he has what it takes to deliver in that regard.
Otherwise, here are some other things to keep an eye on in this game.
Stand By Me:
And to start, it’s worth noting how strong the ‘Caps have been at BC Place this year, as they enter this game having won 7 out of the 8 games that they’ve played in the building since returning home, which is pretty good.
Be it the sensation of the home fans, the reduced travel, the familiar confines of the turf, or the prospect of singing ‘Stand By Me’ after wins, it’s all come together to make a perfect storm of ‘Caps home dominance, one they’ll want to keep up in this game.
There aren’t many teams in MLS right now who have turned their home ground into more of a fortress than the ‘Caps, and they will want to continue on that path on Sunday, allowing them to pick up a key result.
But while optimism is high in ‘Caps land ahead of this game, it’s worth noting what kind of history that they’re up against on Sunday, as they’re looking to snap a 13-game winless run against the Sounders in official competition.
After their last win against Seattle, which came over 4 and a half years ago at BC Place at the beginning of 2017, it’s been all one-way traffic from their neighbours, who have beaten the ‘Caps 9 times in those 13 games, drawing the other 4 matches.
So while a draw is a good result, it’d be pretty huge if the ‘Caps could pick up a win, especially considering that they could face the Sounders in the playoffs, which is a reason why they’d want to get rid of this psychological hurdle before then.
Don’t forget about the Cascadia Cup:
Lastly, while it might seem like an afterthought given all that’s at stake in this game, it’s important to remember that the Cascadia Cup, the trophy contested between the Sounders, the Whitecaps and the Portland Timbers (and their supporters) will be handed out on Sunday, no matter what happens.
Barring a miracle, the trophy will be Seattle’s, as while they’re tied with Portland with 6 points, they’ve got a superior goal difference over their rivals, eliminating them from the race.
But that doesn’t mean it’s over yet, as the ‘Caps have a very outside shot of winning it, because while they currently sit last with 3 points, they’d also join the 3-way tie with a win, and if they somehow win by 4 or more goals, they’d get ahead of both teams in the race.
It’s a big ask for them, of course, especially considering their history against Seattle, but this is MLS, so never say never.
Record: 12W-9L-12D (48 PTS)
Head Coach: Vanni Sartini
Record: 17W-8L-8D (59 PTS)
Head Coach: Brian Schmetzer
Seattle Sounders 2-2 Vancouver Whitecaps
Seattle Sounders 4-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
So overall, this game promises to be an exciting one on so many fronts, making it one to keep a close eye on this Sunday.
With so much at stake, both teams will want to come out flying, but especially so in the case of the ‘Caps, who are so close to their goal, but won’t want to throw away all their hard work right at the finish line.
Because of that, knowing that they’ll have their home fans behind them, everything’s set up for them to go and get the job done, allowing them to extend their season.
They’ve got control of their own destiny, and grinded so hard to make that happen, they’ll now want to make full use of it, getting them to the promised land for the first time in 4 years.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders, Sunday, November 7th, 2021, 15:00 PDT, 18:00 EDT (BC Place, Vancouver)