Maybe we want to put those parade plans on hold.
Vancouver Whitecaps headed down the I5 on a school night and were taught a serious lesson by a rampant Seattle Sounders side, who blew the battle for top four positioning in the MLS Western Conference wide open with a 3-0 home win on Wednesday night.
Nicolas Lodeiro ran the show for Seattle, with a goal and two assists, while Victor Rodriguez had one of each, and Clint Dempsey struck as well for the Sounders.
With three games in eight days, Carl Robinson rang the changes. Some expected, some surprising. Kendall Waston and Jordan Harvey coming back into the defence fell into the former category. Sheanon Williams coming in for Jake Nerwinski, the latter, although you expect that to be for his experience for such a high pressure game.
Christian Bolanos came in for his first start and minutes in a Whitecaps jersey since the last meeting between the two sides in August, after recovering from a knee contusion. Throwing him in cold seemed strange with the form Cristian Techera has been in, but again, you have to feel that was for the experience factor he brings.
The opening exchanges were fast paced, with both sides delivering a couple of dangerous ball across goal, but with no takers.
The Sounders came the closest to breaking the deadlock in the 16th minute when a neat backheel from Clint Dempsey played in Nicolas Lodeiro but the Uruguayan’s shot across goal beat David Ousted, but crashed off the right post.
It was a let off for Vancouver, but it wasn’t to be for long with Seattle keeping the pressure on and taking the lead moments later from a lovely low curler from Victor Rodriguez from 20 yards out that nestled into the bottom right corner of the net.
Referee Robert Sibiga was having a bit of a mare in the middle, first missing a clear deflection for a Whitecaps corner and then booking Yordy Reyna after the Peruvian was clipped when cutting inside on the edge of the box.
Fredy Montero came within the width of the crossbar to levelling things up in the 37th minute, with a stunning 25 yard free kick that Stefan Frei managed to tip onto the woodwork and smother the rebound.
Seattle nearly headed in to the break two up when Chad Marshall flicked on a corner with two minutes of the half left, but Ousted reacted quickly with a leg save on the line and the danger was cleared.
And that was it for the first half action. Vancouver were once again giving up possession, but had shown enough glimpses for you to feel that they could get themselves back in to this one.
The second half started as a fairly dull affair, but burst in to life around the hour mark.
Dempsey got the ball about 25 yards out with his back to goal, turned, and unleashed a fierce strike that beat Ousted but crashed off the bar in the 61st minute.
Vancouver broke quickly up the field but a sloppy giveaway from Tony Tchani allowed Seattle to steam forward and it ended with Lodeiro tucking away a cross to double the Sounders lead.
There already looked to be no way back for the Whitecaps, who were looking jaded out there and lacking creative spark.
And it was game over for sure in the 69th minute when Dempsey started and finished a neat move, playing the ball out wide to Lodeiro and then drilling the return ball low under Ousted to make it 3-0.
Williams nearly headed a back pass into his own net three minutes later, as Vancouver’s night lurched from one mistake to another.
The Sounders were now shooting on site and Ousted came up with a sprawling save to keep out a long range Dempsey effort.
With the game petering out, there was still time for the Whitecaps night to get even worse, with Tchani seeing red for the second straight match against the Sounders in stoppage time following a Video Assistant Review.
A night to forget for the Whitecaps who keep their place at the top of the Western Conference standings, but whose confidence will clearly be rattled by this one. With a trip to Sporting Kansas City coming up on Saturday, the road to the postseason isn’t going to get any easier.
FINAL SCORE: Seattle Sounders 3 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
SEATTLE: Stefan Frei; Kelvin Leerdam, Roman Torres (Tony Alfaro 79), Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones (Will Bruin 77); Osvaldo Alonso (Nouhou Tolo 45), Gustav Svensson, Nicolas Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan, Victor Rodriguez; Clint Dempsey [Subs Not Used: Tyler Miller, Jordy Delem, Henry Wingo, Lamar Neagle]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Sheanon Williams, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Russell Teibert, Tony Tchani, Bernie Ibini (Alphonso Davies 67), Yordy Reyna (Cristian Techera 67), Christian Bolanos (Mauro Rosales 76); Fredy Montero [Subs Not Used: Stefan Marinovic, Marcel de Jong, Andrew Jacobson, Brek Shea]
On the match:
“Whenever you play a good team, and Seattle is a good team, it comes down to fine lines. Giving up the first goal was not a good idea, but from that moment to maybe just before they scored their second goal, we had some good periods of play. We weren’t able to take advantage of any chances, which were very few. Then we got caught in the counterattack and then got caught on the goal. The guys knew it was coming.”
On if this shows what a team can do with possession:
“We played some very good stuff with the ball in certain areas today…better than we probably have done in the past two or three games. But again, it comes down to fine lines and we got caught on the counterattack. Tony [Tchani] made a straight pass, which Chad [Marshall] read, then they broke and scored. Then we didn’t do our defensive duties on the third goal. You’ve got all the possession in the world and you’ve got to take your chances. There’s a reason why Clint [Dempsey], Nicolás Lodeiro and these guys score goals – it’s because they do the details correctly.”
On if this result concerns him as the regular season winds down:
“No, not at all. You can’t win every game. We’ve lost an unbeaten run and now we’ve got to start a new run. You’re not going to win every game unfortunately, but it’s how you bounce back. I’ve got a good group of boys in there who are disappointed today because we were beaten by the better team. You have to hold your hand up, but we’ve got to be better in certain areas.”
On what positives he takes away:
“For certain individuals, yes. I thought they played very well. Others give me more answers than questions. My mind is clear now so I’d like to have a settled team going into the last couple of games so I’ve got a few answers there. There’s a couple positives. I always try and take positives even out of a defeat against a rival of ours. There are other things that concern me a little bit in relation to protection of my players. There was a bad tackle on Yordy Reyna in the first half then Yordy gets booked for simulation – those things can’t happen.”
On if a game like this gives fuel to those doubting his team:
“This was one game. One game. When you lose a game of football you’re always open for criticism. With four games to go, I said to the guys in [the locker room] we’re at the top of the table with four games to go. Not many people would’ve said that could happen, but it is happening. They deserve a lot of credit in there, but we’ve got to keep fighting, keep grinding, keep working hard and doing the details. When you play top teams, the details are the most important things.”
On if a game like this lets him know what his team needs to do:
“Listen, we go into a very difficult environment on Saturday [in Kansas City] and it’s a place we’ve never won. We’re not favourites – they’re clear favourites. We’ve got to roll our sleeves up and show that we’re all men. It’s going to be a battle against a team that we know what’s coming, but we’ve got to do the details. If we do that, we have a chance of winning.”
On the midfield and losing Tony Tchani:
“Aly Ghazal couldn’t play today unfortunately because he’s still working his way to fitness then will come back into the mix. Obviously losing Tony is disappointing, mostly in the way it happened. I think there were other challenges that you could’ve looked at, but they didn’t. But if it’s a red card it’s a red card.”
On how important it is to be in the driver’s seat as the regular season winds down:
“We just focus on ourselves. Everyone else does the talking and we just focus on what we can do, which is prepare for a tough game in KC on Saturday. And then we’ll deal with the next game and then we’ll deal with the next game then everyone else will make brilliant predictions and assumptions. We won’t even get involved in that and will just focus on ourselves and try and get as many points as we can then see where that takes us.”
On the reception Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales got from the crowd:
“It’s a credit to both guys. They’re top, top professionals both of them. I think Fredy got a presentation before the game…and Mauro, the reception he got was phenomenal as well. Two top people and two top players and a great example of what football should be all about.”
On the team’s performance:
“Of course this was not the episode we came here for. We know we were playing against a good team. They were able to win the game. Fortunately they scored the first goal. We couldn’t pull back in the second half. The first 20 minutes and then they scored the second one and to me that was the end of the game.”
On positives to take from the match:
“Well, we have had three games against them during the year. We won one. They won one and we drew one. It is ok. Maybe we will see them again in the playoffs and it will be a different history.”
On the team’s confidence and the last few games of the season:
“Yeah, we are confident. We know that the rest of the games we have are going to be difficult but we are going to look for our playoff spot. The next game in Kansas we are going to have to get some points.”
On if the Whitecaps can get a first-round bye in the postseason:
“Right now it depends on us. The way that we see things. We need to go get the results that we want to. We need two points to get a spot in the playoffs. Honestly this game is in the past and we are going to look forward to Kansas City.”
On what you can take from this game moving forward:
“There are some good things about tonight’s game. When you play in this rivalry in this big game then we can move forward. This is in the past now.”
On him and Mauro Rosales getting a positive reception tonight from Seattle’s fans:
“[I was happy for [Mauro] and I think he deserves it. It was good. Honestly I didn’t know when I stepped on the field what kind of reception, what kind of message they were going to send me. It was positive. I didn’t hear anything against me during the night, during the entire game.”
On the game:
“Disappointing, I think. No one wants to lose a game like that, obviously. I think we were in a little bit of a good run of form and a good streak so I think it is disappointing, but we have to put that behind us and look forward.”
On what was different in tonight’s game that didn’t go well:
“Sometimes it is just not our night and I think that kinda happened tonight.”
On what he can take as positives moving forward:
“We have to put this behind us and obviously just look forward to the next game. We got a couple of tough games still coming up so we have to play at Kansas City and then at New York so we have to get a couple of points on this little road trip that we got.”
On the decision to play Clint Dempsey as a striker:
“It came from watching tape, watching film, trying to get our team untracked a little bit, and then we had to make sure that the team bought into it. I’d started to talk about it already a couple of games ago, just to see if we couldn’t jump start something. Clint was on board, and obviously Víctor [Rodríguez], Nico [Lodeiro] and those guys were on board, and this seemed to be a good opportunity to roll it out there. We only had four games left and we need to – if that is the system going forward – then we needed to try it and get it to click. We’ll watch this tape. We’ll try to see what we’ll do in Philadelphia. That’ll be a tougher game, we might go back to a different formation but we’ll see.”
On what the system brought out of the players:
“Whenever you play with the ‘False 9’ or whatever you want to call it, it suits Clint’s skill-set, staying higher up the field and then dropping into the pocket to combine with Víctor and Nico. I thought that was good. And then you had the energy and enthusiasm of Cristian [Roldan], Kelvin [Leerdam] and Joevin [Jones], providing a three-pronged kind of attacking movement to get in behind. So, you allowed Víctor, Dempsey and Nico to play there, and those other guys did their job, too. So, it wasn’t just the front four, it was the team as a whole.”
On whether he was trying to get Lodeiro more involved in the attack:
“No, I wasn’t worried about Nico, he’s a very talented player. I just think it’s one of those games where it clicked, it worked. Those guys enjoyed playing with each other. I think the team as a whole was getting a little irritated. That [unbeaten] streak was a good streak. 13 games unbeaten is a great accomplishment, but it also kind of wore on us a little bit as some of those draws were not the results we wanted. So, this group was going to have a breakout game, I think that was tonight.”
On the decision behind formation and personnel changes:
“Well Joevin Jones has had, in my opinion, his best games playing at left back. When he comes from a little deeper position, I think he has more comfort with it. I think he can make the timing of those movements a little bit better. Playing in the midfield is a different beast – you still can get forward, he still does what he does. So, I’ve played Nouhou – and I like Nouhou – behind him, as well, in certain moments, but we just felt that I wanted to get a real attack-minded group out on the field, and that’s what Joevin provides.”
On the injury status of Osvaldo Alonso and Román Torres:
“They’re tough kids. It’ll be day-to-day on Román. Ozzie has a strained quad but, as what he proved last year, he’ll come back and he’ll feature for us in the last couple of games.”
On Cristian Roldan’s performance:
“Another stellar performance. What was he, No. 13 on the ’24 Under 24?’ Probably should’ve been a little higher, in my opinion. I’m maybe a little biased, but he should be higher. He consistently puts in good performances, not just physically, but tactically and technically he puts in really solid performances.”
On what he said at halftime:
“Well, I’ll start from the beginning. I think the crowd helped. I think there was a big crowd there tonight. I think the energy in the building was good, and so the crowd had something to do with our fast start. Again, I think we had a determined group of guys. At halftime, they weren’t satisfied with 1-0, they were all saying, ‘Let’s go, we can’t stop playing, we need to keep pushing.’ And so, I just basically reiterated what they were already talking about. I just said we have to keep possession in their half of the field. What I didn’t like [were] a couple of a balls late in the first half. We played a little tentative, we always played the ball backwards, negative back to Stef [Frei] and he’d kick it down the field and it was a 50/50. I wanted us to still find Clint, I wanted us to still find Víctor and Nico in the gaps there so that we could play forward.”
On the feeling of the win:
“It feels good, obviously we have great photographers that take pictures of us and put together a collage every time we get a win and we were walking out here and we realized that the last time we had won in this building was I think August 19 or something against Minnesota. And we were like, ‘This is not right, we need to win today, it’s a big big game.’ And I think we came out and looked very very dangerous and created some good chances. Were unfortunate with a couple of them but then were able to finally find the back of the net and weather a couple of their attacks. And then for the most part, in the second half I think we played really really well obviously.”
On the free kick save:
“I saw it, which is what allowed me to make the save. I asked for a four-man wall and obviously tried to read it on the inside of that. I think Bolanos stepped into it and I was able to see it. That is crucial for being able to react. I’m happy with it, but it’s the only thing I had to do.”
On the mechanics of the save:
“I think it turns into instinct after you’ve done it a million times. You know there is different techniques of getting over there. The fastest way of getting over there is a crossover step, but sometimes you just simply don’t have the time to do it, and that’s what I ended up doing today. You’ve seen that ball before, you gauge the work and then you intercept it. I think I’ve grown fond of using my left hand on a high left ball, you know I think the save I made in MLS Cup is a perfect example, I think if go with my right hand I just don’t have the strength to keep that out.”
On his injured arm:
“It’s alright, we will find out tomorrow if anything bad has happened. Regardless I think it was a good team win, come out with the clean sheet. Good attacking movement up front. Obviously I think we could get a little better in the possession stats so that we can stop running as much. But overall happy with the performance and we need to keep this going.”
On his instructions on playing up in the field:
“I was doing okay. Clint is a special player and we understand that. I was told to stretch the field as much as a I can to create space for these guys. I felt like I did ok and obviously it was cut short with Ozzie’s injury and my injury.”
The impact of the formation shift:
“To be honest it was the same. It was the same formation it was just a difference in personnel. I feel that we created the same amount of chances as before, expect this time we finished them. And goals change games. We were able to get our attacking players in good spots and our full backs really high.”
VÍCTOR RODRÍGUEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)
On his first goal as a Sounder:
“I am very happy for the match and for my teammates and for our fans, thank you so much for the support of the fans and I am very happy with the goal.”
On getting pressure released after scoring goal:
“No, my teammates and coach helped me more and it’s easy for me to play games with players like Dempsey and Nico. The work is more easy, me with them.”
On the type of passing that was being done:
“Yes, in reality we have been practising a lot in the day to day and the coach has been preparing for this moment and now we are collecting the results.”
NICOLAS LODERIO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)
Saturday’s loss versus today’s win:
“We feel better. Now we are happy because when you win you feel better but we must learn from the last game in Salt Lake. We have to get ready for the playoffs.”
On what worked so well this evening:
“We played 90 minutes with concentration. It was the tipping point for us. Because the last game we had mistakes and we lost. Today we played 90 minutes with concentration.”
On the difference of putting Dempsey on the top:
“Clint is always very helpful and useful for us. He’s a player that can play well and he can create spaces, because there is always going to be people marking him. So as he moves, we need to move around as well and make use of those opportunities and those spaces.”