Safe to say that Vancouver Whitecaps aren’t finding Orlando to be the happiest place on earth right now after going down to a heavy 3-0 defeat to Cascadian rivals Seattle Sounders in their second match at the MLS is Back tournament.
A first half penalty from Nicolas Lodeiro and a second just past the half hour mark from Jordan Morris had set Seattle on their way. When Raul Ruidiaz made it three at the start of the second, there was no way back for Vancouver, and their night was to be made even worse when keeper Max Crepeau was forced off with a hand injury.
The Whitecaps tournament hopes are still alive, but they are on life support as things stand.
San Jose’s win over Chicago earlier in the night had changed the dynamic of the match somewhat from a Vancouver perspective. Even with a loss, they still had a chance of advancing with a victory in their last group game. They just couldn’t afford to lose by a lot.
Vancouver went with an unchanged starting line-up after Leonard Owusu recovered from a late injury in the first game. The only change was in formation to a 4-4-2. Seattle went for a strong, attacking line-up, clearly setting out their intention to try and get the job done early.
It was an incredible fast-paced start from two teams fighting for their tournament lives and Seattle’s Handwalla Bwana had the ball in the Vancouver net just three minutes in, but the flag was up for offside on Ruidiaz, who played the pass to the homegrown player after cutting through the ‘Caps defence.
That was certainly a warning for what lay in store, but the ‘Caps nearly took the lead themselves four minutes later when Jasser Khmiri had a free header at the back post off an Inbeom Hwang corner but it went straight to Stefan Frei in the Sounders goal.
Seattle immediately sprung an attack and Jordan Morris fired a rocket of a shot at Max Crepeau, which the ‘Caps keeper could only parry. The rebound came to Lodeiro, whose shot was brilliantly blocked by Ranko Veselinović and the danger was cleared.
The ‘Caps had another chance to break the deadlock 12 minutes in when Owusu got his head on an Ali Adnan free kick but guided it wide of the right post.
It was a great chance for Vancouver and one they were to rue missing just three minutes later when Morris fired the ball towards goal, Khmiri’s hand was in the way, and referee Robert Sibiga pointed to the spot. Up stepped Lodeiro to easily drill the ball home and Seattle had the lead.
Both teams kept the pace up, with both defences looking like they could be exploited at any point, but despite a few more half chances, they got to the first hydration break without any further goals.
That was just to last seconds after the restart when Morris pounced on a loose ball in the midfield, played it off to Lodeiro, and received a looping pass back to run in on goal and slot the ball past Crepeau.
Although they’d been playing well, it was certainly uphill now for Vancouver, and if they wanted to stay in with a chance of progressing, they had to keep the goals down and try and find some of their own.
Neither team made changes at the half but it was more of the same from the Sounders to kick off the second and they went three up six minutes after the restart when the ball fell to an unmarked Ruidiaz in the six yard box off a corner and he had the easiest of goals to put Seattle out of sight.
If you thought the night couldn’t get much worse for the Whitecaps, well that was quickly disproved in the 54th minute when Bwana crashed into the diving Crepeau and the ‘Caps keeper got the full force of the Sounders’ cleats onto his hand and was quickly substituted.
That handed 21-year-old Thomas Hasal his MLS debut and the young homegrown was quickly called into action, making a fantastic double save on the hour mark to keep the score at three.
Seattle appeared to take their foot off the gas, and Vancouver had a great chance to pull back a goal six minutes from time but Yordy Reyna blasted one over, in what could yet prove to be a crucial wasted opportunity in the grand scheme of things.
The ‘Caps had another chance at a late consolation a minute into stoppage time when a Theo Bair headed was tipped over the bar by Frei.
And there was just time for a Reyna dipping free kick landed on top of the Sounders net.
A promising start, a bit of life at the end, but the inbetween was dire. There was little to no attacking threat, with no idea what to do with the ball in the final third. There were chances, but they went a-begging without the clinical missing attackers to get on the end of them. There’s no point having possession and leading in passes if you do nothing with it.
We all know that Vancouver are depleted beyond belief right now. Add Crepeau to that and it’s bleak. As poor as they have looked at times, there have been some glimpses that they could maybe put enough to together to get past Chicago on Thursday. But they will likely need to have a multi-goal victory to advance, and even that is relying on results elsewhere.
You can’t get away from the missing pieces, but you also can’t get away from the poor play from many that are there. At least there were five subs made tonight, and they showed some spark.
We don’t know what lies ahead for the rest of the MLS season. The Canadian border issues throw up many unknowns. Thursday could be the last time we see the team in action for a while. That might not be a bad thing.
FINAL SCORE: Seattle Sounders 3 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crépeau (Thomas Hasal 58); Jake Nerwinski, Jasser Khmiri (Cristián Gutiérrez 73), Ranko Veselinović, Ali Adnan (Derek Cornelius 73); David Milinković (Theo Bair 55), Leonard Owusu (Ryan Raposo 55), Inbeom Hwang, Russell Teibert; Cristian Dájome, Yordy Reyna [Substitutes not used: Patrick Metcalfe, Simon Colyn, Michael Baldisimo, Damiano Pecile]
SEATTLE: Stefan Frei, Kelvin Leerdam (Alex Roldan 67), Shane O’Neill, Xavier Arreaga (Jordy Delem 68), Nouhou Tolo; Gustav Svennson (Joshua Atencio 90), Cristian Roldan; Handwalla Bwana (Shandon Hopeau 79), Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris (Danny Leyva 79); Raul Ruidiaz [Substitutes not used: Trey Muse, Stefan Cleveland, Miguel Ibarra, Ethan Dobbelaere, Justin Dhillon]
Possession: SEA 48.0% – VAN 52.0%
Shots: SEA 17 – VAN 8
Shots on Goal: SEA 7 – VAN 2
Saves: SEA 2 – VAN 4
Fouls: SEA 13 – VAN 7
Offsides: SEA 1 – VAN 0
Corners: SEA 8 – VAN 4
MARC DOS SANTOS
On tonight’s loss:
“It was a very weird game for us. The first part of the game, I thought we came in well. Defensively, right now, we’re making major mistakes. We need to sort out our backline. Talking about guys that are missing is not important right now but I feel that we feel it. The runs of Jordan Morris created a lot of problems, that’s how they got the penalty and the second goal. Overall there were parts of the game that we did really well, we have possession in their third but we weren’t able to get in, we weren’t able to find a player that could make the difference. The most important for us right now is to move on. Try to get points against Chicago to go back home.”
On finding more scoring:
“We need to find a way with the weapons that we have to answer and to find solutions in the final third. There was a lot of possession for us around their box but not enough hard runs, not enough balls played in. We were there but nobody was able to make a difference around the box and that’s something we’re going to need. Defensively, with the guys we have, we need to sort out what’s the best thing for us right now.”
On defensive issues:
“The biggest issue is we’ve never been able to find a stable backline yet. The backline that played against LA in our last game before Covid was totally different from the backline that we’ve been playing now. We just need a sequence and a stability with that. That’s the major thing that we need right now.”
“The model that we want is based on a 4-4-2. We felt a 4-3-3 isolated a lot a player like Yordy. It was difficult at times to get out against San Jose. We felt it would be better in a 4-4-2 for us to be able to put better pressure on Seattle and have different types of runs and options. That’s why we did that. I don’t think that was the problem with conceding goals. The one on a corner kick is really bad and disappointing because we went over it a lot. The second goal, the one of Jordan Morris that makes the diagonal run, our backline needs to be able to drop down much faster when that ball is played.”
On battling despite being undermanned:
“We have eight players that are not here that are important players to the roster. We’re doing everything we can to maximize what we have. It’s not easy, we’re doing everything we can. We came to this tournament regardless that we have guys out, we’re here to fight. Our guys never stopped running even in the last 10-15 minutes. We kept going, we kept pressuring, we didn’t put our heads down. Many teams that have their full squad lost two games in the tournament – good and important teams. It’s tough to get things together when you have these pieces missing. It’s just difficult and it’s reality.”
On Thomas Hasal’s debut:
“He came in well. He did his job when he came in. He was focused. Of course he was a little bit nervous for the moment, it’s his first MLS minutes. But again, when you look at us coming here, Patrick Metcalfe had his first MLS moments, young player. Cristian Gutierrez, first MLS moment. Thomas in his first MLS moment. That’s a lot of positive that we can do right now here.”
On the third Sounders goal:
“They were well set up. The player from Seattle gets in front of Inbeom. Then Inbeom has to create a 2v2 with Cristian. But then he leaves that position and goes to the edge of the six. There, Inbeom has to track back and he didn’t do it. That’s how they scored the goal. As soon as one of the players doesn’t do his role, the team suffers. For sure, we’re going to address that.”
On assessing the roster while missing players:
“What I’m doing is maximizing what we have, give chance to players that are having their first time playing in MLS, and trying to get the best out of the players. To judge the squad that we have, it would be funny because Bikel, Godoy, Andy Rose, Tos Ricketts, Lucas Cavallini, Georges is not here. We have a roster of 30 players if you count Isaac as a fourth goalkeeper, 10 of them are not here. So one-third of our roster is not here. My process of evaluating is I know what we’re going to be about when everybody is here. The only game that everybody was here, we won. That’s how I assess the roster.”
Thoughts on the match:
“It’s a match of a few mistakes. I thought we played well in the first half and we were unfortunate to go down two goals going into the half and we kept fighting to get one before the half, unfortunately we didn’t. We talked at halftime to make sure we come out strong and, again, unfortunately, we need to be sharper and we concede early on in the half and we go down by three. That being said, I’m proud of the squad for never giving up. It’s easy to put your head down when you go down 3-0, but we believe in our team, we believe that we’re growing, and we believe that we’re on the right track. And if we continue like that, if we continue playing with that grit and never say die attitude, good things are going to happen. It’s a tough one tonight to lose, but we’ve got one game left and we need to maximize the amount of points that we can get out of this for the standings.”
On how a young team can stay sharp, focused, and hungry:
“Well I think I think you saw when a few of the young guys came on today, the hunger and the desire and the passion to win, in that attitude to keep going even in adversity, and that’s exactly what you want. I think even the guy sitting next to me, Ranko, the maturity that he shows. We have an exciting young squad. And there are lessons that we need to learn. But I think the willingness to compete, the attitude that they weren’t going to give up, that we weren’t going to give up in a tough time shows you the heart and determination that the young guys have in the squad. We’re going to keep learning and this is only a lesson that we can grow from.”
On development of a young team:
“I think these are learning lessons and you learn on the fly. You know, you look at a young guy like Thomas [Hasal] who’s a young goalkeeper who comes in and he you know he’s put into a situation that’s not an easy situation, in fact is a difficult situation, and he does extremely well. I think all the young guys that have come into this tournament and been asked to compete have done exactly that and that’s exactly what you want. You want guys that are going to come with their hard hat on and work every day, and we’ve been a team that has showed that we’re here, we’re playing with heart, and we’re never going to give up. I think that that extends from our training and how we compete with each other and translates onto the field when we compete in this tournament. It’s unfortunate to not to get the results that we want in these two games, but we have a quick change over to our final game. And like we’ve both kind of alluded to, we need to maximize the points out of the third game, and make sure we come up with a strong mentality, because these points matter. And that’s all we can do is just focus on the next game.”
On Thomas Hasal being vocal at the back:
“He came into a difficult situation. He was vocal and we did hear from the back. That’s what you want you, want a guy a young guy who’s going come in, he’s going to take charge of the game, and be vocal in his position. Obviously you expect mistakes, we all make mistakes, but a guy who comes in with the right mentality who’s willing to learn, who wants to do what he can, and play his part for the team, that’s exactly what you want. And again that goes without saying, all the young guys that have come in, they’ve played a role. They’ve done the best they can and that’s all you can ask for, guys that are willing to work hard work for the team, and give their best, that’s all you can ask.”
On running out of ideas in the final third:
“Yeah, I think we were successful in possessing the ball today. And that’s something that we improved on from our first game. The final third, we just need to be a little bit sharper, we know a little bit cleaner in our movement. A little bit more decisive. There were just small errors that we made when we were approaching the final third, and it was the small errors that we made in our first third. I think that that sums up the game, we need to be better in the final third and we need to be better in our first third. But I thought possession wise we were much better from the first game, and that’s all we can do, we’ve got to keep growing game by game. We’re going in the right direction. We’re looking forward to the next game already to get back on the field, and again like I said maximize the points.”
Thoughts on the match:
“Well as Rusty said we made a few big mistakes, you know who cost us two goals in the first half. They’re an experienced team, you know when you make those mistakes in these kind of games they score goals we consider to be cheap goals and then it’s hard for a young team to come back. But we didn’t give up, you know even when you consider the third goal at the beginning of the second half. We keep playing, we keep pushing, we keep trying to play our game and I’m proud of this team and we need to learn from our mistakes from the first two games and try to get together and to win the third game because it’s important, it counts towards the table of MLS. We need to grow as a team, this is a really young team, but I really believe in this team that we can learn from these games and grow.”
On Thomas Hasal being vocal:
“I think he was really good for his first game. It isn’t easy to go in, [not] warming up, he didn’t have anything, but he came really good. He defends a few good balls and I think he was pretty good.”