Wow. 5-0. Who saw that coming? But as fun it is to bask in the glow of arguably one of the best games in this club’s history, certainly MLS history, the ‘Caps have to turn their full attention to a bitter rivalry that will have long lasting implications on bragging rights in the Pacific Northwest. The first ever meeting between Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders in the MLS playoffs gets underway on Sunday. Everything’s on the line.
Vancouver have been hit or miss against Seattle these past seasons, particularly at home. Yet some of the fondest regular season games from the last couple of years have been Seattle away.
Who could forget Eric Hassli’s wonder goal? Kekuta Manneh’s hat trick in the 4-1 win? Pa Modou Kah’s first half double? On the flip side, the ‘Caps last trip to the CLink was a lacklustre 3-0 loss. We will worry about the away game when it comes, and getting a positive result at home will be paramount. Ideally with a clean sheet.
Seattle will look to break down the resolute Whitecaps defence without one of their main men, Clint Dempsey, after a characteristic showing of ill-discipline saw him see red on Decision Day last weekend. That incident, and Dempsey’s petulance to the player he elbowed, should probably have warranted additional suspended games, but DisCo must have been on holiday after that frantic Decision Day. A one game ban and a small fine are punishments that do not fit the crime and certainly do not match discipline handed out to less high profile players.
Even without “Deuce”, the Sounders are a potent attacking threat with a solid base. Will Bruin will be the likely lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 in the absence of Clint Dempsey and the injured Jordan Morris. Bruin is no spring chicken, but he is an MLS target man if there ever was one. He isn’t very mobile, which will give Waston an advantage in their inevitable matchup.
The Seattle midfield will likely consist of Osvaldo Alonso and Cristian Roldan in the defensive midfield positions and Joevin Jones, Nicolas Lodeiro, and Harry Shipp in the attacking positions. Lodeiro will be the main creator, so Aly Ghazal will need to be sharp as a tack to sense the danger. Shipp will need to be watched carefully also, but if Marcel De Jong is in the same form as Wednesday night, that side will not be the avenue Seattle will be able to exploit.
I would suspect an unchanged team from Vancouver; the back line of Stefan Marinovic, Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, and Marcel De Jong were almost immaculate against San Jose. Aly Ghazal and Tony Tchani controlled the middle of the park with the help of Christian Bolanos, Cristian Techera, and Yordy Reyna, and Fredy Montero will be chomping at the bit to put one over his old team. Again.
I believe the game plan will be similar to the San Jose game, as Seattle will feel confident in their possession play. Nicolas Mezquida may have turned a lot of heads when he came on with his two goals, as did Brek Shea with his two assists, but I think Robbo will probably bring them on at similar times to their introduction against San Jose to move the Whitecaps up a gear should they need it.
The old saying goes that you can’t win a tie in the first leg, but you can certainly lose it. I would not be surprised if we saw a slightly more defensive style of the counter attacking game. Keeping the Seattle offense to no, or at the very worst one, goal will set the ‘Caps up for a favourable away game. Needing to chase goals away in Seattle would be a nightmare.
Let’s hope the Halloween horrors will be coming early for Seattle, and it will be Fredy giving the Sounders some nightmares.
AFTN’s Man To Watch
Nicolas Lodeiro – Credited with sparking the Sounders to their MLS Cup win last season, his creativity will be the biggest threat to Vancouver. But just how tired will he be from new baby duty? We saw Brek Shea come back from the hospital and play well on much shorter notice, but the ‘Caps will hope Lodeiro’s mind is full of diapers.
Michael – The head says 2-0 ‘Caps. The heart 3-0. Either way going to Seattle firmly in control of the tie, and with no away goals given up, would be absolutely massive. The ‘Caps game is perfectly made for then going on the road and grabbing an away goal.