(PHOTO CREDIT: DEAN RUTZ/The Seattle Times via AP)
If you’d offered Marc Dos Santos and Vancouver Whitecaps a point heading into Seattle on Saturday night, I’m sure they’d have bitten your hand off. But leaving Lumen Field with a 2-2 draw, at the back of the relief and joy at ending a losing run with a strong performance and a point, there will be that feeling that they could have come away with all three.
Going into this match against the unbeaten Supporters Shield leaders and on the back of a five game skid, a feat matched only in 2012 and 2019, a first half goal from Raul Ruidiaz had Whitecaps hearts sinking as to what was to come.
But it had been a good first half performance from Vancouver. One which saw them lead in many metrics, but trail in the most important one. They came out in the second half fired up and goals from Cristian Dajome and Lucas Cavallini had them ahead by the hour mark.
Jimmy Medranda hit a 71st minute equaliser, and although both teams had their opportunities to win it, it was a share of the spoils in a Cascadian classic on a scorchingly hot night in Seattle that Vancouver deserve a lot of plaudits from.
Dos Santos made two changes to the starting line up, with Caio Alexandre and Deiber Caicedo coming in for Brian White and the injured Javain Brown. He also changed the line-up, reverting to a 4-3-3, with Janio Bikel moving to right back with the three other options all out injured.
Seattle started the match looking the stronger side, but for all their possession, they didn’t test Max Crepeau in the Vancouver goal, and it was the ‘Caps who had the majority of the shots through the first half hour.
Neither team had managed to get anything on target, but the Whitecaps got their best chance to break the deadlock in the 37th minute when Russell Teibert sent a cross into the box and Alexandre met it well, but headed wide.
Seattle responded with a header of their own, with Abdoulaye Cissoko coming close from a free kick moments later.
That seemed to give the home side some spark and an unmarked Raul Ruidiaz fired home a Brad Smith pass from close range after a quick Seattle counter.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) June 27, 2021
The Whitecaps should have been heading into the break on level terms when Caicedo picked the ball off the feet of Alex Roldan, raced in on goal, but was denied by a kick save from Stefan Cleveland when he really should have scored. Instead they headed in goalless yet again in the first half of a match this season.
Could they turn it around? Possession was even and the Whitecaps had more shots in the first 45 minutes, but finishing was the difference.
We got our answer four minutes in, when the Whitecaps tied things up with a great solo goal from Dajome. Alexandre fired a long ball forward for the Colombian to run onto and Dajome knocked the ball over the onrushing Cleveland before coolly slotting it into the far corner.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) June 27, 2021
Game back on.
And not only back on, the Whitecaps took the lead seven minutes later.
Dajome whipped a cross into the six box for Cavallini and the ball hit off about five or six of the striker’s body parts before trundling into the net to give Vancouver a shock lead.
The question now was could they actually hang on, with the ghosts of two straight stoppage time losses looming large and a vociferous crowd roaring the home side on.
The Whitecaps knew that the Sounders would launch an onslaught, and Ruidiaz had a great chance to put Seattle back on level terms in the 65th minute but was denied by a point blank stop from Crepeau.
The ‘Caps were still getting looks at goal themselves and Dajome blasted over from a good position when he had to hit the target.
And it was to prove costly, with Seattle going straight up the pitch, forcing a corner, which came out to Medranda at the edge of the box and the Sounders sub fired low through a crowd of players and into the net to make it 2-2 with 19 minutes still to go in a real barnburner.
Both sides had opportunities to add to the scoreline, especially in stoppage time, with Seattle pushing hard for the winner and Vancouver defending resolutely in the closing stages.
But a draw it was and the Whitecaps will, and should, be very pleased with a battling team performance that showed what this side is capable of when at their best.
Getting this team to be at their best more often is now the key. They have players capable of doing damage in attack, a solid goalkeeper, and some other strong pieces. This point stops the rot. They went to their unbeaten rivals and went toe to toe, when lesser teams would have crumbled falling behind in their current form. From a mental standpoint, they saw out seven minutes of stoppage time.
The negatives were no goals again in a first half and a lack of discipline at times towards the end. You can’t really fault them for that when they wanted to stop their losing streak so badly.
So a strong, hard fought point. What they need to do now is to make sure they build on that. If they go to Dallas next weekend, the only team below them in the West right now, and leave empty handed, it’s going to feel like a wasted opportunity.
There’s talent there, there’s spark there, and it’s still early enough in the season to turn things around. The most important thing is they’ve stopped the bleeding, but as we all know, it doesn’t take much to start it off again. For now, let’s just enjoy this moment and performance. It’s been a while.
FINAL SCORE: Seattle Sounders 2 – 2 Vancouver Whitecaps
SEATTLE: Stefan Cleveland; Yeimar Gomez, Shane O’Neill, Abdoulaye Cissoko (Jimmy Medranda 68); Alex Roldan (Kelyn Rowe 86), Cristian Roldan, Joao Paulo, Josh Atencio (Danny Leyva 61), Brad Smith; Will Bruin (Fredy Montero 61), Raul Ruidiaz [Subs Not Used: Spencer Richey, Reed Baker-Whiting, Ethan Dobbelaere]
VANCOUVER: Max Crepeau; Janio Bikel, Erik Godoy, Andy Rose (Ranko Veselinovic 74), Cristian Gutierrez; Caio Alexandre, Michael Baldisimo (Patrick Metcalfe 81), Russell Teibert (Ryan Raposo 85); Cristian Dajome (Brian White 85), Lucas Cavallini, Deiber Caicedo (Leo Owusu 74) [Subs Not Used: Evan Newton, Thomas Hasal, Derek Cornelius, Theo Bair,]
Possession: SEA 61.6 – VAN 38.4
Shots: SEA 19 – VAN 11
Shots on Goal: SEA 5 – VAN 4
Saves: SEA 2 – VAN 3
Fouls: SEA 9 – VAN 13
Offsides: SEA 0 – VAN 2
Corners: SEA 2 – VAN 1
MARC DOS SANTOS
On the game:
“The total organization of the , the commitment of the team, this week people in the media I heard about losing the locker room and things like that. But a locker room that’s lost doesn’t answer like that. Incredible commitment from the guys. But if you take especially the first half, there were spells of us on the ball, finding Baldi, switch. We went down at the 40th minute, but we were playing a good game. Our speech here at halftime was of a lot of confidence, no need to yell, no need to go at the guys, being extremely positive. We knew that we had to keep the game close, because if Seattle would have done the 2-0 it would have been much more difficult. I think we came out with confidence, we got goals. It’s normal at the end how they pushed us back, and then we had guys falling, and physically struggling with cramps, and it’s a normal thing with the amount of games that we have. But it’s something to build on.”
On the good start:
“There’s two things that we addressed in the last two days, it’s the why of coming out and lacking sometimes the little things to dictate the game, and we also spoke about making big plays in the end of games. Those are two things that we spent a lot of time on in the last two days. We had honest conversations and went through things. I just think the spirit of the guys to do the little things tactically together today was very good. The mindset was good. We were down at halftime 1-0, but playing a good game. And then in the second half we just kept everything very calm. But to be honest with you, we came into this game with a lot peace and – it’s weird to say it – but we were confident coming into this game. Because when we evaluate the last five games we see it’s little things, and that’s what brought a lot of frustration to us, is by losing by little things. I think that the important thing when you go through a difficult start is really to be positive and to analyze the things well, not listen to external noise outside the locker room, stick together and we did that tonight. We proved that we could be a team that could go anywhere and get points.”
On ending Seattle’s run of not conceding from open play:
“It’s a point that we spoke about, we knew that the only goals they conceded was on set plays and dead balls and penalties. What we felt is, if we are able to switch the play and find Dajo and Deiber in one v one situations. A big detail in the game was, if our fullback stayed a little bit low, and then Smith had to press our fullback, especially Janio’s side, it would create a one v one of Dajo with the left sided centre back. Our first goal is a play that we spoke a lot about, finding our right sided midfield to play very quick to create one v ones wide. I think how Dajo and Deiber, to give the switch, and then with the inside midfielders and our fullback we able to outnumber them in wide areas and switch the play. It allowed us to create chances. So for sure that’s something that we’re going to go back and look at it. But then there’s other little things that we did that I felt we were a little bit pragmatic. If you look at the cross of Dajo in the box for our second goal, he didn’t wait that somebody would attack the ball, or be in the box or standing in the box. He put the cross behind the the centre backs hoping for a deflection, a mistake, something to happen, and I think those are areas of the field that we can be much much better. When we get those balls in those areas, be a little bit more pragmatic how we attack those areas and I think these are clips that we could take and build on moving forward.”
CRISTIAN DAJOME (THROUGH INTERPRETER)
On facing Seattle Sounders FC:
“It was a difficult game against a strong team. They play very well and whenever they’re at home they’re a threat. Fortunately for us, we showed some great football, some football we’ve been working on in training. I thought we were really strong on attack. We were able to attack their spaces, we had some good possession in good areas, and again, the point is a fair one and one we can take forward and continue building in the race for the playoffs.”
On finding motivation after a losing streak:
“I think football is like that, [it] can be pretty unfair. The best games that you play, sometimes you lose them, then you don’t play as well [and] you win. But today, that wasn’t the case. We played some really good football, and we’re happy it’s a step forward. It’s been five tough games for us, five games that we’ve been losing, and we made some difficult mistakes in those games but we went back to training to fix those. And like I said today with the result, it’s a huge step forward and something we can continue building on and training to continue playing the way Marc wants us to play and continue putting points on the board.”
On what message MDS gave the players:
“He told us basically to stay calm [and] to keep playing the way we were playing. We played a very good first half, we had the ball, we just didn’t create enough. He told us to continue playing with the same intensity and that we would find some openings in their defence, and luckily we were able to find some goals in the second half.”
On the match:
“In a moment like this where we were going through coming to Seattle to try and take away the bad streak we had, who would’ve knew that we would get a result like this. I wanted to win the game of course, maybe we should have deserved to win, but I’m still happy with the draw because I’m happy with the attitude of the boys today. It’s not easy coming to Seattle. You could really feel the heat in the stadium today, the fans, we were playing against everything. And we still managed to come with a result like that. That for me, it’s gold for us. We still have a lot in front of us, and there’s still a lot of games going forward. Here we set the tone and we just had to get out of that bad streak we were going through.”
On preparing for next game:
“Now we got a full week to prepare well for the next game, the vibe in the dressing room is good, the players are just relieved. The performance of the team was incredible today, a lot of show of character and attitude, and trying to get that identity back as I said previously this week. We’ve just got to fly back to Salt Lake, rest a bit, enjoy the day with our families and start going back to work on Monday and worry about Dallas.”
On the vibe in the locker room post-match:
“Playing against Seattle, the best team in the league right now who haven’t lost a game at all this season, it’s great to come away with a point like this. Especially coming off the bad streak it kind of changes the mood in the dressing room, and starts to get the guys fired up again and keep working from here and keep growing.”
On being scored on in the run of play for the first time this season:
“Well, number one, we all knew that this was going to happen at some point. That a team was going to score from the run of play. That was going to happen. You can call it an individual mistake; you can call it good play by Vancouver depending on what side of the fence you’re on. I’m going to try to be positive here. Look [AB] Cissoko did a really good job under tough circumstances. They played the ball in behind him, Stef Cleveland has done a great job. His save at the end of the first half was an unbelievable save to keep that scoreless streak going a little bit longer. But I’m sure if those guys, I know that Tommy [Dutra] is going to work with Stef and Djimi [Traoré] will work with AB. You know, we will learn and just keep moving forward. Because we understood that a goal from the run of play was going to happen.”
On the recent home results:
“Yeah, I’m a hate to lose guy. We as a coaching staff certainly are looking inward first to see what we did, what we perhaps didn’t do, to prepare the team in those moments. I thought our preparation for this game certainly came fast and furious after the Wednesday game. Did we do all the recovery, did we message them right, did we show them the film? Did we actually understand Vancouver’s tactics with two wingers playing very wide and how that was going to impact us, playing with three center backs? I mean [AB] Cissoko and Yeimar [Gómez Andrade] does a little bit better job but having a center back out on the wing channels isn’t good for us. So did we as coaches give the players the tools to be successful? That’s what I’ll be reflecting on, and we will just keep moving forward. Because as [Jeremiah Oshan] said, the 7-0-4 start is still our best start in club history, still by far. Still undefeated. What complimented the team at after the game was they never quit. A lot of teams in MLS, they go down and you end up losing all the points. So, for us to come back, fight back. And Jimmy [Medranda’s] goal was there. We had that chance, [Maxime] Crépeau made a good save on Raúl [Ruidíaz] and then Fredy [Montero] had the rebound. Kellyn Rowe came in and put some dangerous balls in at the end. We were fighting. We were going for all three. So that’s what I’m most proud of, but I will do some reflection to make sure we get them ready.”
On being able to score and being back on the pitch:
“The reality was that these were a tough eleven months, being out because of many different reasons the pandemic and injuries and things like this. So, this is good to be getting back after all this, it’s the first year that I’ll be able to get some more continuity. [It was] good to be able to score, I’m happy about this sequence of two matches, on Wednesday and now today, I’m happy about that.”
On keeping the unbeaten record alive:
“So we always want to win at home. Today was a very difficult game. We dropped two points, but we still are unbeaten and we are confident that we will keep fighting and find a way to come back to the win.”
On the heat during the match:
“The weather, it always plays somewhat of a factor. If it’s raining, if it’s hot, but we knew it was going to be hot coming into the game so we did everything we could to prepare for the heat for today and I think for the most part we did what we could. It was definitely hot, it was in the 100s, yeah? But like I said we all prepared the best we can, we all hydrated the second we walk in the locker room today. We were getting handed electrolyte drinks left and right.”
On his communication with his teammates and earning his first career assist:
“The play played in my favor, allowing me to get involved in the attack a little bit more since I was the one who stepped in to win the ball. We sprung the counterattack and I was able to join it whereas sometimes in my position you’re not able to. But I don’t think I got the assist there, [Brad Smith] got the assist. [He then found out he got credited with an assist]. It was great to play a part in the goal.”