Another week, another Cascadian derby, another defeat, and another performance that saw Vancouver Whitecaps look so far behind the top teams in Major League Soccer as they went down to a 3-1 loss at Seattle Sounders.
A goalless first half didn’t set up what lay in store in the second as the Sounders came out flying after the restart and were three up in the first 15 minutes thanks to a Joao Paulo long-ranger, an Erik Godoy own goal, and a Raul Ruidiaz header.
Fredy Montero pulled one back from the spot before Janio Bikel saw red and the ten men were lucky to weather the late Seattle storm and get away with just a two goal defeat.
Marc Dos Santos was expected to make some changes and he did, switching to a 4-4-2 formation to get his key attacking core on the pitch, while bolstering the midfield, moving Andy Rose into the middle and bringing Derek Cornelius back into the defence to partner Erik Godoy.
Would those changes solidify the defence while allowing for some free-flowing attacking play? You always felt it was going to be a challenge no matter who lined up for this one against the Western Conference leaders.
It took just 80 seconds for the Sounders to have their first dangerous chance, with Nicolas Lodeiro making room for himself to fire off a fierce shot from just inside the ‘Caps box that ended up in the side netting.
We’ve seen the Whitecaps rue early missed opportunities in matches of late, and they had their own chance to punish the Sounders in the 8th minute when Ali Adnan sent in a cross which Lucas Cavallini met unchallenged on the edge of the six yard box, but Stefan Frei produced a point blank leg save to keep out the striker’s effort and keep the scores level.
The ‘Caps should have created another chance 20 minutes in when a quick breakaway from a cleared Sounders corner saw Cristian Dajome have options on either side but hold on to the ball and then go down under a tackle instead of setting up a teammate for a shot on goal.
Seattle got their best chance of the game so far in the 26th minute when Derek Cornelius stumbled in the box allowing Ruidiaz to rise and meet a Lodeiro free kick, which he headed just past the right post.
Lodeiro hit another free kick into the side netting minutes later, before Jordan Morris did the same with a header soon after as the Sounders started to inch closer and closer to breaking the deadlock.
Lodeiro was in outstanding form and hit a stunning first time volley from the edge of the box in stoppage time that Brian Meredith parried away.
But the Whitecaps held firm and headed into the break goalless, but on level terms, which all things considered was a small victory in itself for the team.
Any feelgood factor was gone 52 seconds after the restart when a Jake Nerwinski clearance came to Joao Paulo 20 yards out and the Brazilian drilled a low one through three Whitecaps defenders and past Meredith to fire the Sounders into a 1-0 lead, and there was no looking back after that.
What a start to the second half!!!
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) October 4, 2020
Seven minutes later and Seattle’s lead was doubled when Cristian Roldan sent a low one in across goal and Meredith was only able to parry the ball off Godoy’s leg and past him into the empty net.
It was soon 3-0 two minutes before the hour mark when a Lodeiro corner came off the back off Morris straight onto the head of an unmarked Ruidiaz, who made no mistake from a few yards out. An unexpected assist, but more terrible marking in general to allow such a danger a free header like that.
The danger now was that this was going to become a rout like we saw in LA a week and a half ago.
But the Whitecaps were thrown a lifeline and a lifejacket moments later when referee Timothy Ford gave Vancouver a penalty after adjudging that Yeimar Gomez had brought Cavallini down in the box, giving the Seattle defender a red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity.
The initial contact not only seemed outside the box, but also seemed to come from Cavallini, whose shove into Gomez’s back saw him fall over and his trailing foot may have caught the striker in the box as he seemed to be falling back over anyway.
A video review saw Ford wave away the red card, issue a yellow, but still give the spot kick, which Montero converted via a panenka for pull Vancouver to within two.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) October 4, 2020
Any hopes of an unexpected comeback were soon nipped in the bud three minutes later when Bikel was given a straight red for a tackle on Gustav Svensson. It was more a yellow for me, but that would have been his second of the game so he would have been off anyway, so there were no real complaints.
It does now mean that both Bikel and Cavallini will miss the midweek match against San Jose, with the latter picking up another yellow and being suspended for accumulation.
After that Seattle just piled on the pressure and launched attack after attack, with poor finishing, squandered opportunities, and some great saves from Meredith preventing any additions to the scoreline.
It wasn’t a bad first half performance but whatever happened at the start of the second killed the ‘Caps and having won just one game under Marc Dos Santos after conceding the first goal, the writing was on the wall as soon as Joao Paulo scored.
It might be a case of targeting the games they can win now in this run-in, whatever you may class those as being. The ‘Caps now sit second bottom of the West, just ahead of the LA Galaxy on the tiebreaker. Next up is San Jose on Wednesday, who are now on a resurgence after a couple of heavy defeats.
There doesn’t appear to be any easy games left this season, so it’s going to be a tough few weeks for a team that’s already finding things tough.
FINAL SCORE: Seattle Sounders 3 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
SEATTLE: Stefan Frei; Kelvin Leerdam (Alex Roldan 76), Yeimar Gómez Andrade, Xavier Arreaga, Nouhou (Brad Smith 73); Gustav Svensson (Jordy Delem 73), João Paulo (Josh Atencio 89), Cristian Roldan, Nicolás Lodeiro, Jordan Morris; Raúl Ruidíaz (Will Bruin 76) [Substitutes not used: Stefan Cleveland, Shane O’Neill, Miguel Ibarra]
VANCOUVER: Bryan Meredith; Jake Nerwinski, Erik Godoy, Derek Cornelius, Ali Adnan; Cristian Dajome (Patrick Metcalfe 75), Janio Bikel, Andy Rose (Michael Baldisimo 65), David Milinkovic (Ryan Raposo 65); Fredy Montero (Theo Bair 75), Lucas Cavallini (Tosaint Ricketts 89) [Substitutes not used: Evan Bush, Isaac Boehmer, Ranko Veselinovic, Damiano Pecile]
Possession: SEA 69.6% – VAN 30.4%
Shots: SEA 22 – VAN 3
Shots on Goal: SEA 9 – VAN 2
Saves: SEA 1 – VAN 7
Fouls: SEA 10 – VAN 17
Offsides: SEA 0 – VAN 1
Corners: SEA 7 – VAN 0
MARC DOS SANTOS
On tonight’s loss:
“It’s always difficult for any team to come in and get points in Seattle. Seattle has a lot of experience, a lot of players that make a difference, and we have to stay very strong, very compact in the first half, and take some good choices on the break, some good choices in transition. I think that we had a very good opportunity in two major ones, the one with Cava on the low cross, Frei makes the reaction save then the one in transition where it’s a foul on Cristian Dajome and a yellow card and the ref doesn’t call that. But we felt at halftime, we knew it was a game of patience, that we could get something out of it. In the first 15 minutes of the second half, we concede that goal from João Paulo and the unlucky bounce on Erik. It was hard to react. Unfortunately, once we scored the 3-1, the sending off of Janio comes too fast. And then it was hard. Then you come here, you’re playing in Seattle against Seattle 3-1 down and you have to play with a man down, you start thinking about how important Wednesday is.”
On importance of midfield play:
“Talking about consistency this season is very unfair because people are not living what we live so it’s very unfair. It’s easy to speak when people are not in our position. But I think what we need to do is a problem that we have for a while, that is on the ball we need to make sure that we have enough midfielders with personality to play. We have to find that, we have to make sure that we get midfielders with personality to play and give us opportunity to have more the ball and breathe more in the right moments with the ball and I think that it’s gonna be hard to grow there this season.”
On game plan against Seattle:
“Our game plan was to make sure that we defended very well, we were close to each other. And then when we won the ball, to make sure we exploit the right areas, in moments of transition, to be dangerous against them. I think that in the first half our flashes of transition could have been very dangerous. Fredy came in good pockets to initiate that, there’s one or two balls that were very close to pass to Cava. There’s a very good break that we use Cristian Dajome and then again he got fouled and there was nothing there. And that was the game plan, to make sure that we limit everything they can do and take the space in behind us. Because when you play high against Seattle, they’re extremely dangerous, especially with Jordan Morris to exploit the space in behind. And that’s where we tried to do. Unfortunately, I think what really cut our legs was the first 15 minutes of the second half. It was hard for us to get back. They hit us hard in that moment.”
On play after conceding the first goal:
“When you’re playing teams like Seattle, or even LAFC and you concede that first goal, then you start opening yourself a little bit more up against teams like that, you suffer a lot with their quality. We have to make sure that we become a team and we become a club that has that edge and that front foot and the ability to make a difference before the opponent does that, and it’s not the case right now. It’s a mindset also, it’s the mentality when we concede the goal to believe that the game is far from being over, and I think it’s the mindset at the same time that it’s also making sure that we have the advantage before them. And the last year and a half, opponents have been stronger, that’s the reality.”
On tonight’s loss:
“Within this game, I thought we did a good job in the first half to come in at 0-0. And obviously, they had the majority of play, they had more chances. When we were able to complete the first pass into Fredy and then have him turn, a couple times, we did make things happen. I know we had a fairly early shot off a great ball from Ali. We needed more of those moments because those were important for us. So to come in at 0-0, weathering the storm. Outnumbered in midfield a lot by Lodeiro and his ability to find spaces all over the pitch and drifting in different spots. He’s a very good player. And then, at halftime the focus was very much on, let’s try to find more of those moments where we find Fredy in pockets. We did feel like we could be dangerous in those moments, and for them to score so early in the second half, that hurts us especially when you’re looking for those few moments when you can break on a team and you’re, at times, having to defend deep because of the other threats they have with the likes of Jordan in behind. The whole sequence of those three goals was really frustrating because they were avoidable, without a doubt.”
On conceding a goal just after halftime:
“Because of the timing, we had gone into halftime, overall pleased with how we defended especially in the final third. In these games, I said a couple times the first five to 10 minutes of both halves is so important for the rhythm, for the momentum. Throughout this sequence, three teams really stick out, Toronto, LAFC and Seattle. They’ve got so many threats and are so strong all over the pitch that when you allow these teams to get into a rhythm and then suddenly you allow Lodeiro to really start playmaking from different parts of the pitch, it’s difficult. The timing of the first goal, without a doubt, after you’ve done a good job for 45 minutes, you want to get through that initial five to 10 minute period, break their rhythm, slow the game down at different times and obviously we weren’t able to do that.”
On moving back to midfield and playing alongside Janio Bikel:
“I don’t think I was great tonight and a lot of my work was probably sort of unnoticed. A lot of it was defensively trying to track Lodeiro’s runs. Lodeiro does a really good job of drifting all over the pitch to find pockets of space, and there were a few moments in the first half, I thought maybe I should’ve left him to our centre backs to push up a little higher and then maybe I can step up with Joao Paulo a little bit more, Svensson drops, Joao Paulo found a lot of space with the closest full back to the right side. And, as a group, certainly early in the second half I think we probably allowed them to many gaps. In terms of Janio, he’s a fantastic player and I’ve really enjoyed playing with him, especially the other night against Portland, I thought him and Leo together were fantastic. It was a real pleasure to play behind them to get through an awful lot of work. He covers a lot of ground, his ability to take the ball in difficult positions and wiggle out of areas is really important for us. I haven’t seen the red card. I’m hopeful that it’s overturned, from my view, it didn’t look like he really meant any harm or anything like that. Because certainly he is an important part of our team moving forward. For me going into midfield, it was a really unfortunate incident with Leo yesterday. I think it would have been great to continue with a similar group against Portland. I really enjoyed playing centre half with Erik in that game. I thought we were a little bit more aggressive. It would be nice to have that continuity continue and really work together so it was a difficult one losing Leo. For me, the team comes first. I’ve really enjoyed playing that centre back role and on a night like this where I’m needed somewhere else, that’s obviously no problem.”
Another tough game where things just didn’t go the team’s way defensively. How do you guys regroup after this game?
“The mood is obvious. Everyone is disappointed. We had a relatively good first half, going into the second half at zero-zero. We were right in there against a very good team away from home. Of course, it’s disappointing not to get any points here. We are not going to hang our heads too long; we have another quick turnaround on Wednesday. We’re gonna look at again, like we do always, what can we do better. What were areas of strength? What were areas that we can we can improve on? And then, be ready for the next game.”
How do you think you played yourself personally?
“I mean, I don’t like to look at it, too individually. You know, I’m part of a team here and the most important things is to get points. We weren’t in the lead. I’m not going to sit here and say, great game or terrible game. I’m just gonna, again look at what I can do. What I can try and get better out of my teammates? What I can do to help them in order to make us a better team.”
It felt like the first half, things were relatively calm, low event, under control from both sides. Then early goal for Seattle and that turns into two and three. Is there something that your team can do to kind of stem that tide and slow things down after Seattle gets an early goal in the second half?
“Obviously, we will we were trying not to be under the gun too much. If you look at some of the goals we conceded today, especially the second and third goal. You know this is very tough for us to take these goals, you know. Deflection off one of our defender’s legs, and the ball really good going anywhere and it ends up in our net. And then a similar thing on the third goal you know a deflection of, you know, I think it goes off Morris’ back, and then it falls perfectly for Ruidíaz right on the goal line. I think that comes as a result of not necessarily anything differently on these goals. it’s really hard to point say where can we, this needs to be better, that needs to be better. I think as a group though, we need to find a way to keep the ball more, to relieve us of some pressure and in certain moments, key moments of the game because when we do that it gives us gives other team less chances to get these sort of chances to get these sort of bounces.
On the adjustments that were made at halftime:
“Well the adjustments at halftime were just reminding them what the original game plan was. We had talked before the game about not getting frustrated because we knew they were going to sit back and look to Marc’s [Dos Santos] credit he didn’t sit back all the way, they were still pressing a little higher up the field, but you know we were certainly you know you could feel that the game was going to one of those games where we had a lot of possessions, a lot of shots but couldn’t score and this that and the other. I think your comment is spot on, Chris, João Paulo’s goal opened things up. I mean we just, again, reiterated what the game plan was getting the prime assist zones, how do we do that, crossing references, all those things. But JP’s goal, and a lot of, he makes it look easy. But for a lot of you guys out there, and I’m going to talk directly to my Academy players, the young players that we have here at the Seattle Sounders. If you really look at the concentration and the simplicity of that movement, the ball comes to him and his first touch you just see concentrating, his first touch is so perfect for him to set himself up to strike the ball cleanly in that moment. It’s such a simple goal but that’s the thing that young players are lacking, that is what young players have to strive for. In that moment, that was nothing more than a simple soccer move that João Paulo makes looks easy. Soccer is a simple game, and young players need to pay attention.”
On what allowed them to open things up in the second half:
“We change a little bit. So, in the second half we have more possession and we have João [Paulo] open the [score]. The game was more easy for us for the second goal, for the third goal because then they want to score and after the third goal the game was open and when the game is open we feel more well that we can play with the ball, counter-attack, movement I think was more easy after the third goal.”
On how it felt to be back with the team:
“Yeah, it’s an amazing feeling. The last time I stepped out was the MLS Cup Final, so a lot has happened since then. It’s different without the fans but we see all the fans on the big screen and we seem them on social media and we know how important they are to us. We know that they are with us and we try to give our all and get results and we are playing well at the moment so we are doing it for them.”