The phrase “must-win game” has been bandied around the Vancouver Whitecaps for the past few weeks. Even though the fact that they’d only actually won one of them made that seem far from the case. This time around it most definitely was down in Seattle.
With the Sounders two points behind ‘Caps heading in to the match, but with two games in hand, defeat was not a realistic option for Vancouver if they were to keep their playoff aspirations alive.
And despite an attacking display and decent overall performance, the breaks didn’t fall the ‘Caps way and they were undone by an 81st minute Jordan Morris header in a 1-0 loss that pretty much ends their postseason hopes with four games remaining.
You don’t have to look very hard to see where it all fell down for the ‘Caps. After going the full game v New York Red Bulls and the first 74 minutes of last week’s win over Columbus with no shots on target, they went another full 90 in Seattle without forcing Stefan Frei to make a single save. Story of the season really. Well, one of them along with defensive mistakes.
It was a strong team that Carl Robinson put out, but a few surprises considering the performances of the likes of Andrew Jacobson and Alphonso Davies in the past week. Neither started, as Robbo relied on his old guard to get the job done. Sadly they couldn’t.
The dangers posed by Nicolas Lodeiro were evident from just 75 seconds in the when the ball broke to the Uruguayan in the box but he curled his effort well wide.
Both teams pushed and had half chances, as the game flowed nicely, with Vancouver’s best chance a Nicolas Mezquida free kick that went over.
Erik Hurtado had a great chance to give the ‘Caps the lead in the 14th minute when he did everything right in beating the offside, getting on to a Pedro Morales through ball, and lobbing Frei, but the Swiss keeper was able to punch the ball away as the striker waited for it to come back down within heading range.
Seattle came within inches of grabbing the first goal in the 22nd minute when Andreas Ivanschitz low curler was so close that even the Sounders flame celebration guy had a case of premature ejaculation. Just went off in his hand. We’ve all been there when we get too excited.
Vancouver responded with a looping Mezquida header from a Hurtado cross that landed on the roof of the net.
Both teams continued pressing in an open game, with each side’s pace causing problems, but both had to settle for a scoreless scoreline at half time.
The second half started at a less frantic, and dangerous, pace but the game burst into life just past the hour mark as David Ousted produced a wonder reaction save to keep out an Ivanschitz effort from a tight angle. How he got to the ball is one to ponder for days.
Seattle had another great chance to open the scoring in the 67th minute following an amazing scramble in the box, which Vancouver’s defence somehow managed to clear when a goal looked most likely.
The ‘Caps responded with a quick counter and substitute Giles Barnes crashed his shot off the left post with Frei well beaten. A game of inches indeed.
With the draw helping neither team, the game started to open up, and Christian Bolanos flashed a shot just past the left post with 11 minutes remaining.
A goal was coming, it was just hard to tell for who. As it turned out, it was Seattle, with Jordan Morris throwing himself at a beautiful ball in from Lodeiro to guide it past Ousted and give the Sounders the opener and what proved to be the match winner.
There was no way back for Vancouver, either in the game or in the playoff race. No more real chances for either side to add to the scoreline and the Whitecaps head back up the I5 with a lot of soul-searching to do. It’s all about pride, playing spoilers, and most importantly, playing for contracts now.
For Seattle, they’ve given themselves a great chance of making the postseason. It’s a tough one to take for Vancouver. They deserved something out of the game, but probably not the win.
The slow death of the season is now officially underway, but in reality, it’s been that way for many weeks now.
FINAL SCORE: Seattle Sounders 1 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
SEATTLE: Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Roman Torres, Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan, Alvaro Fernandez (Nelson Valdez 62), Nicolas Lodeiro, Andreas Ivanschitz (Erik Friberg 72); Jordan Morris (Zach Scott 90+4) [Subs Not Used: Tyler Miller, Oniel Fisher, Herculez Gomez, Oalex Anderson]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Jordan Smith, David Edgar, Kendall Waston, Jordan Harvey; Christian Bolaños, Matias Laba, Pedro Morales, Cristian Techera (Giles Barnes 62); Nicolas Mezquida (Alphonso Davies 71), Erik Hurtado (Blas Pérez 83) [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Masato Kudo, Andrew Jacobson, Tim Parker]
On if this felt typical for the season with a big mistake at a key time:
“Yeah. I just said to the guys that I’m pretty sick about this one. This one hurts me a little bit, more than the others because I don’t think we got what we deserved today. I thought performance-wise, we were spot on. We mixed it with a very, very good team, no doubt about that. They’ve got good players in key areas and we went toe-to-toe. The game is about inches, it really is, and we don’t get a bit of luck on the post. And I think it was a mistake on the goal so yeah, it was sickening.”
On Seattle’s goal and if it was goalkeeper David Ousted’s ball:
“I haven’t seen it again in real time. People will have a difference of opinion and things like that. I’ll look at it when I feel like it, but I don’t feel like it right now.”
On Jordan Morris now versus early in the season:
“He’s playing with confidence. With all young players, and we’ve got a number of young players, it’s important that you stick with them when times are tough and through those periods where everyone is writing about them and talking about them. You just continue to let them play. The boy has a lot of confidence, you can see that. He’s making right decisions at right times. In futbol, the top players make the right decisions at the right times. He’s got a big future ahead of him. He’s a good worker and a good kid, as well. He hurts us today – he scored the goal – but he never stopped working. He’s got a bright future.”
On if it’s a challenge to keep the team’s spirits up:
“We keep fighting. One thing we are is a group of fighters in there. What I said is, until it’s impossible for us to do it…you saw how proud those guys are in the white jerseys today. The supporters who came down, as well, were great, but unfortunately we were unable to give them the result. We didn’t want to tie the game – we wanted to try and win the game. I think you saw that. Sometimes when you gamble, you give up things at the other end. I don’t mind being beaten by a good goal. And they’ll say it was a good goal for them, and credit to them, but I think we can do better, which is the frustrating thing. We’ll keep fighting. Strange things happen in this league, they really do, but it’s out of our hands now.”
On if he’s surprised that Giles Barnes hasn’t scored a goal in six weeks or so:
“No, I mean he’s about an inch away from scoring a goal today. He’s fitter and looking sharper. He made one or two excellent runs in behind their defense. On another day, he gets a goal and we’re saying positive things about him. He’s a good player.”
On if the game plan worked like he wanted:
“[Erik Hurtado] was disappointed that he didn’t score [in the first half]. I think he made the wrong decision at the wrong time. I think he tried to put it over Stefan [Frei], then head it in, which, in hindsight, maybe should’ve lobbed him and rolled it into the net. There was a key chance, we didn’t take it, and we had other chances that we didn’t take. Credit to Seattle. They took advantage of one of a number of chances they had. It was always going to be that type of game…and it showed.”
On Alphonso Davies’ play:
“He’s done great…I wanted to give Alphonso some time today because he played well on Tuesday. The kid is an exceptional talent, but he’s 15 years of age – let’s not forget about that. Let’s not put too much pressure on him. I think you see the physical side – he’s not too worried about it. He mixed it with men out there…and did well. .”
On if this felt like a game between two teams outside of the playoff picture:
“You can say that because we are both out of the playoff picture at the moment. We’re trying to fight to get into the playoff picture. I think it’s just two good teams, two good sets of players eager to prove to their managers that they want to play and are proud to play for their organization. There were some tackles, some mis-timed tackles, some flopping, some wrong decisions – a typical derby game. And sometimes, one team has got to lose, and today we took it on the chin, and lost the game. Like I said, credit to Seattle. We meet them again in a few weeks and we look forward to that as well.”
On if he was pleased with how the team handled Nicolás Lodeiro for most of the match:
“Yeah, I think we have to be…Nicolás is a key player, he’s a wonderful technician with great ability. He set up the goal from his delivery. At key moments, in key games, the good players step up, and he certainly stepped up. I challenged Matias Laba today to go and show how good of a player he was. He and Pedro [Morales] in the midfield – I thought they were outstanding. They limited Nicolás to a number of key chances. As the game opens, which is where his strength comes out, then obviously he can hurt you. I don’t think he hurt us as much as he’d have liked to have hurt us. But he hurt us on the one pass, which was enough.”
On today’s game:
“It was a lively game. I thought both teams were going for the win. I thought we had our chances but Seattle took theirs and that is why they won.”
On Seattle’s goal:
“He got time on the ball over there to drive it across, and it went over David Edgar’s head and I stepped out to get to it and Morris came out of my blind spot and got in front of me. It is one of those where it is a good cross in but it could have been prevented.”
On the communication on the goal with defenders:
“I could see David couldn’t get there and I was going to step out and collect it and Jordan just came out of my blindspot.”
On this game being typical or similar to the rest of the season:
“You could say that. We have definitely let in some bad goals this year and also we haven’t scored on our chances. We were inches away today on a great strike by Giles [Barnes]. If that goes in we are talking a different game. It is all the difference. We need to access it.”
On the game:
“I think we played very well. We had one clear chance in the first half…Football is about scoring. Both teams needed to win this game but they had the luck that they scored the goal and won the game. Now we have to look forward to what will happen at the [for the rest] of the season.”
On the strategy for today’s game:
“We always practice what we are going to do in different games. But we have to play with our own style, so it doesn’t matter who we are going to play against because we have to have the same mentality and style whoever we play. I think today in the counter attack we were very powerful and had some chances but we just didn’t score.”
On looking forward to the match against Colorado:
“We will be playing at home and hopefully we will win that game. These four last games are massive for us. We have to wait for other results in order for us to get in [the playoffs]. We have to do our job to win and we are going to see what happens after that.”
On the late break-through goal:
“I would say it’s a testament to that group of guys. We have worked all week long on trying to create chances, or enough quality chances, to get at least one [goal]. I think they did that – if you look at the stat sheet, I think we did enough to get at least one. Everybody did a good job, but it’s a testament to them. They created enough chances and got one.”
On winning at home:
“This is a very difficult league to win games. The statistics show that home teams have an advantage, certainly home teams that score first…What we wanted to do today was to make sure we put them under pressure early, that they felt like, ‘Look, this is going to be a long afternoon.’ And I think the guys came out and accomplished that. Our messaging this week was two-fold – obviously to avoid some of the slow starts, but it’s how you prevent those slow starts.”
On the formation:
“The formation, the 4-2-3-1, is what we had since I started just based on what would make the best chance for the team to win games. I haven’t come off that idea, but Nelson [Valdez] has come on, and really tonight, had a tremendous performance. He had a calming effect for Jordan [Morris], and you can’t lose track of that. To have someone you can bring on and then you can change [the formation] depending on the game. As we progress through the season, those things are always going in my mind. But for right here and right now, Jordan gives us what I think the team needs, but I know when I call on Nelson or Erik Friberg, who has been a big part of this team for many years, I have a bench that can make an impact in the game. As a coaching staff, we always look for better ways to win games.”
On the win at this point in the season:
“It’s about enjoying this moment. I will go through today – obviously we will watch scores later today, the players are enjoying today, the players are very jovial in the locker room – we will go back to work on Monday and start working on our next opponent.”
On the mood in the locker room at halftime:
“The mood in the locker room was determined because they knew they had played well. That was some of the best soccer we had played with or without Clint [Dempsey] that I had seen in a long time. I think both Joevin [Jones] and Tyrone [Mears] picked their moments to go forward, the midfield play was good – Cristian [Roldan] and Ozzie [Alonso] are a good pair, Andreas [Ivanschitz] and Flaco [Fernandez] played well, the messaging was just to reward themselves for the hard work they had done in the first half. The messaging was, ‘We need to find that one piece of quality that would give us a chance to break through and score the first goal.’ Again, when you look at that goal, it’s a good goal by any standard – it’s also a brave goal because Jordan sticking his head in there is not easy, but he does and that’s his reward.”
On the performance of Román Torres:
“Román has a pedigree that is impressive. These are the types of performances that we expected when we signed Román. It doesn’t come as big of a surprise to me because I have seen him in training the past month and a half, but certainly for all of the fans it’s impressive. He is a big guy; but he deals with that – he knows his body, he knows his angles, he knows the opponents. That was a performance that you guys will see more often. When you look Román and Chad [Marshall] as a pair, pretty good pair. Pretty good center backs there.”
On whether this match was a typical rivalry game:
“Yeah I think it was a typical one. Those games can be frustrating at times, and this game definitely had some frustrating moments. [The game was] physical, and both teams obviously needed to win, so [we were] battling hard. You just have to keep pushing and hopefully get that late breakthrough.”
On battling with Kendall Waston and David Edgar:
“They’re beasts. Kendall is a monster so he’s a very good defender and he’s big and strong…I think in the first half they knew I was trying to make those runs and they were trying to cut them off. It was frustrating because I didn’t get a lot of touches on the ball in the first half, so I think they are both very good defenders.”
On whether the game was a grind:
“Definitely, and the mentality is that you just have to keep grinding. When you get late in the season and both teams are pushing for wins, it’s going to be a tough game. Same with in [the] San Jose [game] you saw. It’s just a grind and you got to keep going, and we got the late breakthrough which is good.”
On how the back four and Stefan Frei performed:
“They did awesome. Every game they do great, and Stef obviously came up huge on that one in the first half. Roman [Torres] and Chad [Marshall] did well shutting down their guys, and Joevin [Jones] and Tyrone [Mears] did great going forward as well, so they helped out a lot in the attacking end as well as the defensive end, so to get the shutout was good.”
On the upcoming game against LA Galaxy”
“It’s going to be a tough game. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time to try and get into the playoffs. We really needed three points so [this game] was big and it gives us confidence. But I think we kind of have to put this game behind us now and move onto the next one, have a good week of training, and go down to LA and get the three points there.”
On what led to the first clean sheet in nine games:
“Hard work. Patience was also important today because we said this is a do-or-die game for us. We needed to win. That being said, you can’t go in with the mindset of, ‘We have to score in the first ten to fifteen minutes’. Especially against a team like this where they have a tremendous amount of pace up top and quite a few players that can find the space in behind. You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot. Although they got in behind a couple of times, for the most part I liked our patience and our fight. Today was a fight and both teams brought it. We were fortunate enough to get the win.”
On his save against Erik Hurtado in the first half:
“It’s just hustle at that point. I mean, you try to stay connected as much as you can with your back four, and we tried to play the offside there. I don’t know if it was or not, but it doesn’t matter, you try to come out. I was fortunate to make him take a high touch, and then at that point it’s just a scramble just to try and come back. I’m fortunate he didn’t try to box me out. Maybe he kind of forgot about me a little bit and it gave me a chance to come back.”
On the performance of Sounders’ back four:
“Lots of experience in that back four, lots of experience. They played really well today I thought. Like I said, they had a couple of instances in the second half also, and we might just have to be a bit sharper. It’s difficult, you know, because we have the majority of the possession. We’re trying to be on top of it and ready for anything, and then one pass squirts away and within a split second there comes the ball. It’s a difficult game defensively, but with all that being said I thought we did really well. I’m happy for my team that we were able to get a shutout.”
ROMÁN TORRES (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)
On the match:
“Well first of all I’m very, very happy to play this game back home; and I’m super, super happy with the victory.”
On whether he feels back to being 100% healthy:
“Personally I feel very, very well. I think as I continue to play I’m going to get game rhythm, and I’m going to keep working hard to continue to keep my level.”
On his impressions of Chad Marshall and the chemistry between them:
“I think we have good chemistry. We have played together before. We have very good communication between the two of us, and just keeping the clean sheet was the most important thing that we were able to accomplish.”
NICOLÁS LODEIRO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)
On the importance of winning this match in the push for the playoffs:
“Well before everything good afternoon. It’s always super nice to play at home, and it’s even nicer to play at home and be able to get a victory out of the game, so we’re very happy about that.”
On how Jordan Morris has improved since Nico joined the team:
“I like playing with Jordan very much. On the field we get along very well, and it’s great to play with a player that has his conditions. He has been growing super, super fast in the last few months. But what matters even more is that he’s not just a good player, but he’s a great person outside [of the game] during training camps and I enjoy that very, very much.”
On whether he had any doubt that Jordan would score off of his cross:
“No, no doubt. There’s always a goalkeeper on the other side that can catch it, so I know it is all about sending him the right balls and that he’s going to fight. He’s going to try and make a play out of it.”
On his personal battle with Matias Laba:
“It’s normal, I mean that’s his job. As I continue to play in the MLS, I become a little bit more known and I’m going to have to get used to these types of players being around me.”
On his current form:
“The team has been improving steadily. We did have a bit of a slow down in the last few games, but we know that we need to keep winning and gaining points so that we can make it to the playoffs, which is the ultimate objective.”