Report and Reaction: No pre-Halloween Thriller as Whitecaps and Sounders play out Western Conference semi-final bore draw

Report and Reaction: No pre-Halloween Thriller as Whitecaps and Sounders play out Western Conference semi-final bore draw

After an explosion of goals on Wednesday, Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders finished the first leg of the Western Conference Semi-final in a scoreless draw.

Both Stefans, Marinovic and Frei, would earn the cleansheet, although the latter did it without having to make a save.

The initial 30 minutes saw a lot of slow buildup by both teams as there weren’t many chances for either except the odd scramble in the box which was either cleared away or gathered by the keeper.

Brek Shea did find himself with the ball by the near post but his cross through the six yard area was unable to find any Whitecap attacker.

The Sounders had the first chance to open up the scoring with less than ten minutes to go in the first half, when a cross from Joevin Jones was cleared off the bar by Kendall Waston.

A couple of minutes after the break, the Sounders tested the ‘Caps defence and came close on a second phase of a corner when Chad Marshall’s header was spilled by Marinovic before it was gathered up.

Both teams remained cautious for the remainder the second half with neither side making the crosses and passes into the box to cause any real danger for either keeper.

Fredy Montero found himself free for a decent chance at the top of the box but Nouhou Tolo was able to get in the way to deflect it for a corner.

The most exciting moment of the second half came in the 84th minute when a scrum ensued during an injury stoppage ,which saw a number of players on both team push and shove each other. At last, some excitement!

With the draw the Whitecaps will now have to travel to Seattle for Thursday’s second leg and get the win if they want to advance to the Conference Finals.

FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 0 – 0 Seattle Sounders

ATT: 27,837

VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Marcel de Jong; Aly Ghazal; Christian Bolaños (Cristian Techera 76), Nosa Igiebor (Yordy Reyna 62), Tony Tchani, Brek Shea (Nicolás Mezquida 89); Fredy Montero [Substitutes not used: David Ousted, Jordan Harvey, Andrew Jacobson, Bernie Ibini]

SEATTLE: Stefan Frei; Kelvin Leerdam, Román Torres, Chad Marshall (Lamar Neagle 78), Nouhou Tolo; Cristian Roldan, Jordy Delem (Gustav Svensson 64); Harry Shipp (Osvaldo Alonso 74), Nicolás Lodeiro, Joevin Jones; Will Bruin [Substitutes not used: Tyler Miller, Tony Alfaro, Henry Wingo, Oniel Fisher]

REACTION:

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

CARL ROBINSON

Thoughts on the match:

“It was important we didn’t concede today. In two-legged ties, I think conceding at home is a no-no. I learnt that two years ago. That was the mindset. We can be better going forward, we set-up slightly tactically different today, and it worked. They defended for their lives, they were excellent, and limited a very good Seattle team to no chances. Probably the best chance was when Kendall hit the bar. So credit to them for that. Fairly happy.”

On if Reyna and Techera having slight injuries changed the game plan:

“It did. I would have played the same team if those guys were fit, but they weren’t. I think you saw in the 20, 30 minute they played, it was the right decision because they weren’t as lively as what they were on Wednesday night. So everything plays into your mind when you play a two-legged series, and for those two guys especially it’s worked out very well. Hopefully they’ll be full fit in three, four days.”

On how the experience against Portland two years ago informed the strategy:

“Lots. I watched those two games again. I still go back to Gershon Koffie and Octavio Rivero should have scored at their place and they didn’t. I think Portland scored here with their first chance with Fanendo Adi on a good pullback, and we had a mountain to climb. So I didn’t want to give nothing away in the home leg. The football wasn’t brilliant. I thought we possessed the ball very well in the first half, without creating shot after shot. And they had nothing either.”

On if he’s the Seattle manager, he tells his team they got what they wanted:

“Of course. Listen, people will tell you exactly what they want to. Whether they’re honest or not, you’ve got to make your judgements on that, based upon knowing the person. I’m sure Brian [Schmetzer] is very happy with a nil-nil. I’m content. It could be better, we could have scored a goal, but we could have conceded as well. Going into the second leg it’s going to be finely poised.”

On if this was one of the more cautious efforts, deliberately, this season:

“Cautious in relation to our attacking play, yes possibly. That was based on personnel as well, we had to make decisions with the two guys [Reyna and Techera] that were phenomenal on Wednesday night, and we did. So it was a little bit cautious, but we went to try and win the game. I think you saw that when we got bits of momentum. We huffed and puffed, but we weren’t able to get that clear opportunity. We’ve been winning games on free kicks, but I think we probably missed five or six free kicks that should have been or weren’t given, unfortunately.”

On if he’s still friends with Nico Lodeiro:

“Listen, he’s a super player, he really is. He was shouting at me in Spanish, and I was shouting at him in Welsh, so god knows if he knows what’s going on. Listen I’ve got tremendous respect for him, he’s a really good player. But I was shouting, because I thought he was going over too easy, and I tell my own players not to do that.”

On what it will take to get a result in the second leg on Thursday:

“A little bit of luck. We know we can play a little bit better, but it’s not about how well you play. You know I’ve been in enough games where you play really well and don’t win the game, and you’re out in finals or cup knockout football, and that’s what we are. So it’s about finding a way to win, and we’ve done it all season. We have to go on the road to a difficult place, they’re the reigning champs for a reason, they’re a good team. But we have to find a way to win, and we will certainly try to find a way to win. How that way is, I can’t tell you because I’d be giving you then my secrets.”

On if the match played the way out he wanted it too:

“I said yesterday in the build-up that it was going to be a chess match, and I think you saw that. We’re known to be a very good counterattacking team and very good on set pieces. We possessed the ball a lot better today, which we can do at times, and without the counterattacking, which was so good on Wednesday night. But that was based upon personnel. There weren’t enough free kicks given, in my eyes, which is why I was frustrated. I’m sure it will be a very different game on Thursday. They’ll be confident, but so will my team in there. We’re quietly confident.”

On the post-match exchange and chat with Sounders FC head coach Brian Schmetzer:

“I said he’s the best, and he told me I’m the best, and he’s the best …nah, listen, he just said ‘well played, we’ll see you Thursday. There’s a lot of respect between both coaches, between the two organizations as well. Yes there’s emotions, good. Because I’m sure that the noise we heard today, which was unbelievable from our fans. It didn’t influence the referee unfortunately, and I hope it doesn’t influence the referee on Thursday.”

On philosophy of players being too hurt to start, but well enough to come off the bench:

“[The fear being that] they come off in five minutes. It’s as simple as that. I’ve got a very good medical team that I listen to. I ask them the question, if they come on and in five minutes, will they be able to last 85 minutes? And when they say no, I’m not a specialist, I take what they tell me. Well people say, well he’s good to play 30 minutes. I think you saw the same with Seattle today with [Osvaldo] Alonso and Gustav [Svensson], they play a certain amount of minutes as it’s set out. It’s no big secret, you don’t want to make a sub in the first half, so that’s strictly that.”

KENDALL WASTON

On tonight’s result:

“We got a good result. Not the best one, but having a clean sheet is good. Both of us tried to create chances. We had our great shape. We didn’t let them get in the gaps. We know they like to go through but this game is about little details. We didn’t want to concede a goal. That was the priority. When we create chances on their side, hopefully in Seattle, we can score.”

On hitting the Vancouver crossbar:

“As soon as I see the ball, that’s a very dangerous ball for us, I sent it back to defend because you’re going with speed across your goal, and just seeing that ball hit the crossbar, I was so relieved.”

On the key for Thursday:

“We have to keep playing the way we played throughout the 34 games. What gave us success until now, keep doing that. Obviously, if we have more possession of the ball, it would be easier because we have to run behind the ball and get it. Seattle, at their place, they play very well, but we’re a very dangerous team on the counterattack.”

On fitness after playing on short rest:

“We have a great coach and staff, they’ve done a great job. Everybody’s 100 per cent, nobody’s tired. Everybody’s excited to play in the semifinals.”

On playing against Clint Dempsey on Thursday:

“To be honest, I’m not focused on Dempsey or any individual. I’m just trying to reach our team goal, that is getting in for the first time into the final. We have to play against anybody to try to reach that goal. We just have to do it.”

JAKE NERWINSKI

On if this was the game plan:

“Well we didn’t want to give up any goals, and we did that. Maybe we’re a little upset that we didn’t score, but going into the next game 0-0. It’s fine, we’ll take it.”

On exchanging words with Tolo at the end:

“We were just talking about hanging out later.”

On if that’s how he thought it would play out without Reyna and Techera starting:

“We knew just going into it, it was going to be a battle. Rivalry, in the playoffs, it’s going to be everyone trying to hit each other, and just kind of scrapping. Like I said, we’re happy that it was 0-0.”

On away goals being in effect for the second leg:

“We’re good on the road, we can score. We’re really comfortable going into that next match.”

On what he’s expecting for the second leg compared to the first leg:

“Tonight was a bit of a mess, not many shots, just a lot of hitting. Maybe we can get a little bit more going forward next match. We didn’t really have that much today, but we’re just going to work on grinding it out, staying good defensively, and trying to get a little bit more offence.”

On if both teams were afraid to make a mistake:

“Maybe you’re right. We were both worried about giving up a goal. But I think sometimes that’s just how it plays out with two tough teams going at it.”

SEATTLE SOUNDERS

BRIAN SCHMETZER

On tonight’s match:

“I actually wish we would have pressed the issue a little bit more. I thought there were opportunities in the second half, and even the one opportunity we had in the first half where we were able to get behind their defence and actually create some problems. Vancouver’s too good of a team for us to just sit in and defend. We have to score goals, so the balance was there maybe, but I almost wish we could have pushed for the first goal.”

On the inclusion of Jordy Delem:

“He did great. It shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s a good player. With the injuries we have it seems natural to put him in there, that’s his natural position, so he did good.”

On needing just a win at home:

“It’s not that easy. Thank you for that layup question, but it’s not going to be that easy. Carl’s going to get his guys ready, we’re obviously going to benefit from getting some guys back in the fold, so it should be a tough match. We’ll be in front of our home crowd so hopefully we’ll carry that advantage through.”

On preparing for a single match:

“We’ve been messaging that for the last four or five games. The guys who are in that locker room from last year knew when we took over that every game was a must-win game. I think that group is resilient, I think they understand, I think they’re proud of the effort they put out on the field, they withstood a hostile crowd and a good team, and they’re ready.”

On Harry Shipp:

“The mantra of this team is next man up. Harry did exactly what he was supposed to do. He’s the next guy that had to step up and his play was solid, it was a solid performance and he did well.”

On playoff atmosphere:

“That was a playoff game, that absolutely was a playoff game. Coaching staffs, players on the field, but you know Carl’s a good guy. We talked after the game, there’s no animosity there, just playoff intensity.”

On not getting an away goal:

“We’re going to win. If we win 2-1, the away goal doesn’t matter, so we’re going to play to win.”

On Fredy Montero factor:

“I think Roman and Chad did a good job. There was that one ball early in the first half floated in behind, pressure higher up the field in the second half, not allowing balls to get into Fredy. It takes a group effort to slow him down, plus when they brought Reyna on and some of their technical guys it was a team effort tonight.”

On what they set out to do today:

“One of our goals was to get a clean sheet, that was one goal out of two or three and we accomplished that one. [The] second goal would have been to score an away goal. We didn’t accomplish that, so we will absolutely watch the tape, digest this game, and prepare for Thursday.”

CRISTIAN ROLDAN

On tonight’s result:

“There weren’t any clear chances from either side. We had that one chance that hit the crossbar off their own player. It’s nice to get away with the clean sheet here in Vancouver. We’ll just need to take care of our game.”

On challenge of breaking Vancouver down:

“They almost play with five in the back. As soon as we get the ball, they all try to get goalside. Credit to them, that was their game plan, just as well as us. No one wanted to make a mistake defensively because that could make or break a series.”

On playing alongside Jordy Delem:

“Jordy was good. He was very good defensively, he’s a smart player, an athletic guy. This might have been our first start together but we communicated well. We limited them to very few chances.”

On opportunity to advance with a win on Thursday:

“I’ll take that at home. If it was in Vancouver, it would be different. I like our chances at home. We play attacking soccer and we’re bound to score goals.”

On using momentum from the 3-0 regular season win over Vancouver:

“It’s a totally different game. The playoffs are a whole different animal. They’re going into that game not trying to concede and then playing counterattacking soccer. It’s going to be difficult. If we score a goal in the early stages of the game, the game is bound to open up and we’re going to get more chances.”

STEFAN FREI:

On tonight’s match:

“Good job defensively by all the players involved, not just the back five or six but everybody. The shutout is a credit to everybody defending well today. The shutout was important, it was one of our goals, I think we sniffed an opportunity to get a little bit more, we weren’t able to do that but the shutout was a goal accomplished and we’re happy to go home Thursday.”

On handling Montero:

“Very well, they tried to find him but beside the blocked shot in the second half he didn’t really have anything. Chad recognized that moment very well to step and block that shot and that’s as dangerous as he was today. Very good, maybe you could sense both teams realized the gravity of the situation playing very defensive minded and really limit the opportunity to make mistakes. We know mistakes can be very costly in the playoffs, but like I said we were very happy with the shutout and we really fancy our chances at home.”

On tonight’s cautious effort:

“You have to keep in mind that we were the away team today, so if we were cautious they were even way more cautious than we were. Yes, we understand that there’s an away goal rule but you can’t bank on that. They have to score now, a 0-0 tie isn’t going to do them anything at our place and like I said we fancy our chances going at home. I think we’re a strong team at home, we’ve established a really good home record over this year and we’re going to take it to them. So who knows, like I said maybe it’s the fact it’s their first playoffs and there are different strategies to it. You do not want to give up an away goal, I get that, but at the same time you have to win at home. There’s different approaches to it, I think we find ourselves in a good position. A shutout is something we wanted and we got, and like I said we’ll be fine on Thursday.”

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Steve Pandher
Authored by: Steve Pandher

AFTN Soccer Show co-host and Senior Writer

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