Vancouver Whitecaps hosting Seattle Sounders in a league match in Portland is right up there for peak 2020 in MLS. It’s a year where we’ve all learned to be unsurprised by much. We’re all expecting the unexpected now. But one thing that we do seem able to rely on is that the ‘Caps are simply not at the races in terms of competing against the Sounders.
It’s been three and a half years since Vancouver beat Seattle and they never really looked likely to in this one, despite the teams heading in at half time on level terms.
Much like when the teams last met, the Sounders took over after the restart with Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro doing the damage and putting the game to bed by the hour mark. The Whitecaps looked lively in the last ten minutes, but it was too little, too late and their playoff hopes now come down to what they can do in their final two matches.
With a second game in 72 hours, Marc Dos Santos had made it clear that there would be a lot of changes for this one, and there were. Seven changes were made overall, along with a formation change, officially into a 3-4-3, but it was clear that a 5-4-1 was the more likely in what was expected to be a defensive effort from Vancouver in an attempt to keep things tight for as long as possible before bringing on their difference makers from the bench.
Seattle have struggled to break down teams that have bunkered against them this year, and that gameplan worked to perfection for the ‘Caps in a first half that saw neither team muster any danger, or shots on target, till the 44th minute.
The Sounders then had a couple of bites at the cherry to go-ahead just before the break with Kevin Leerdam’s goalbound header hitting off Derek Cornelius and going out for a corner, before Ruidiaz forced the first save of the match from Evan Bush.
Scoreless at the half though and the Whitecaps would have been delighted with that, in what looks like being their toughest match from their remaining three games.
Of course it was like that in Seattle when the teams last met and that went pear-shaped pretty quickly in the second half, and history repeated itself again in Portland as the Sounders finally took control of the match, leaving it all over as a contest by the hour mark.
Ruidiaz had returned to the Sounders line-up after having to quarantine following a positive Covid test while away on international duty with Peru. The Whitecaps were keen on their social distancing and they let the Seattle dangerman outpace the Vancouver defence to get on the end of a Nouhou Tolo cross and fire past Bush in the 54th minute.
The linesman initially put up his flag, but a video review saw referee Fotis Bazakos overturn the decision and the goal stood, giving Seattle the 1-0 lead.
Welcome back, @RaulRuidiazM!
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) October 28, 2020
Six minutes later and Seattle’s lead was doubled, with Ruidiaz in the thick of the action again.
The Peruvian skinned Ranko Veselinovic by the byeline, cutting the ball back for Lodeiro to expertly curl the ball home to make it 2-0 Seattle.
A beautiful finish, from a slick attacking move, that was sadly very vacant from Vancouver on the night.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) October 28, 2020
Vancouver made a few changes to try and spark a comeback but it was more like a training match for Seattle as they saw out the last half hour with ease.
The Whitecaps saw their best spell of play in the final 10 minutes of the game, with Ali Adnan whizzing another long range free kick just past the right post and Cristian Dajome having a penalty shout as he was bundled over in the box.
The ‘Caps were eventually put out of their misery by the final whistle. This was a game that one paper you felt it was hard for Vancouver to take anything from. A draw would have been an achievement, but it wasn’t to be and never looked all that likely.
It always looked like the ‘Caps playoff hopes would come down to what they could get from their last two matches against Portland and the LA Galaxy. That’s what it now boils down to and you have to feel they need to take all six points, especially with the whole Colorado Rapids issue still to be sorted.
Even six points might not be enough now, but they need to grab those as a bare minimum to keep their hopes alive. It’s always the hope that seems to kill you as a football fans. Maybe this time will be different.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 0 – 2 Seattle Sounders
VANCOUVER: Evan Bush; Andy Rose (Fredy Montero 58), Ranko Veselinović, Derek Cornelius; Janio Bikel, Michael Baldisimo, Russell Teibert (Leonard Owusu 71), Cristián Gutiérrez; Tosaint Ricketts (53.Ali Adnan 71), Theo Bair (Lucas Cavallini 56), Ryan Raposo (Cristian Dájome 56) [Substitutes not used: Bryan Meredith, Érik Godoy, Jake Nerwinski, Patrick Metcalfe]
SEATTLE: Stefan Frei; Kelvin Leerdam (Alex Roldan 83), Xavier Arreaga, Yeimar Gómez, Nouhou Tolo; João Paulo (Joevin Jones 73), Gustav Svensson; Cristian Roldan, Nicolás Lodeiro, Jordan Morris (Roman Torres 83); Raúl Ruidíaz [Substitutes not used: Stefan Cleveland, Jordy Delem, Miguel Ibarra, Shane O’Neill, Shandon Hopeau]
Possession: VAN 31.9% – SEA 68.1%
Shots: VAN 4 – SEA 11
Shots on Goal: VAN 0 – SEA 4
Saves: VAN 2 – SEA 0
Fouls: VAN 12 – SEA 6
Offsides: VAN 0 – SEA 3
Corners: VAN 4 – SEA 3
MARC DOS SANTOS
On tonight’s loss:
“I thought in the first half, we had a really young squad and guys that came on. Although we didn’t generate offensively, we sometimes showed flashes of danger in behind using Theo. But of course, not enough. I think our defensive organization was spot on. We were able to frustrate them, not giving them space, bring the game to where I want the game to go. Unfortunately they get that goal that, in my opinion, it needs to be clear and obvious to overturn it. I’m not sure it was clear and obvious, I just saw the images. But overall their possession and their weapons made it hard on us. When we conceded that goal, we changed tactically, we took more risks, we came back with some of the subs that we thought we would do them around the 60th. But then, you give Seattle what they want. Seattle is a team that wants to play in transition and the mistakes of the opponent, and then, they get that goal that I thought we had to defend it better. Unfortunately, Ruidiaz does a very good play on Ranko. We could have controlled that better and then, they get the 2-0. We tried our best to press, to push, to create. I think it’s a penalty shot on Dajome. But I think Seattle deserved the win. We knew it would be hard for us tonight, based on all the circumstances, but I think there’s positive things because of playing so many young guys against an opponent that have on the field the MLS Cup-winning team, and even a little bit improved because of Gomez being there. I support 1,000 percent our players. They have all my support, I’m proud of their work, I’m proud of what they have to do almost 60 hours after we have a tough game against San Jose that was demanding. So what I told them is, ‘let’s go, let’s move on.’ What’s next is Portland, we’ll have everybody recovered. Everybody healthy, everybody being able to play the game. And we’ll be ready.”
On the lineup changes:
“It’s not what I wanted. It’s what I had to do, some of the guys were very tight in their muscles, some were risking injury, some of them were not able to recover on time to play this game so I spoke about it in the 48 hours prior to this game. I don’t think we were playing in the same ground when it comes to recovery. I am very frustrated that this game had to be played in a schedule like that. I spoke about that a lot before the game. And we had to make changes. Unfortunately, we had to rotate a lot. But the positive of that is that we saw a lot of guys that give the good answer, that push, that tried to help the team. And again, I’m proud of the effort of the guys tonight. It was very demanding and very hard for them to play again today, it would have been different if we played this game tomorrow.”
On the defence:
“It impressed me how they stuck to the game plan, how they stayed very compact, didn’t give space to Seattle, a lot of communication between them, a lot of work between them. Unfortunately, the downside of that is we weren’t able to get the ball out of pressure when we wanted to generate a little bit more offensively. But again, a team is composed of 25-26 guys, and when the schedule is like that, we need everybody. We need everybody to be involved and everybody to help. We knew when we saw Seattle coming with their best XI and all their players, it would be a very tough night for us because if you want to beat Seattle, you have to play against them with your players and with the same amount of recovery. Today, wasn’t the case. So I think a lot of the positive, the mentality of our guys, the way they fought to give their best to get something from the game. And now we have to move on, we’ll look at some things from this game but right now our ambition, our work, what we want to put in effort, recovery, everything is for the Portland game. That is a crucial game for us as a club.”
On inserting Cavallini, Dajome, and Montero as substitutes:
“That’s more or less what we had if we wanted to be careful with them and not lose players for the Portland and LA Galaxy game. They had maybe 35 minutes in their legs, so we had to make sure that we brought them in the right moment. I wanted the game to be 0-0 in the moment we would have brought them in. Unfortunately, it wasn’t, so we had to chase much more open, much more and Seattle is very dangerous in transition. It just sucks that you have to prepare a game in a different way due to recovery and due to time. But it’s the way it is and we have to now get ready for Portland.
On the performance of the young players:
“If we want young players to grow, they have to be involved in very hard games that mean something. And tonight, we had a lot of U-23 players that could represent Canada in the Olympic team. You had Derek, Guti, Ryan Raposo, Theo Bair. To give them a game that has so much meaning allows them to grow, understand the game, and become even better. Tonight we also had seven field players being Canadian and playing against the MLS Cup champions and that’s why I thought the first half, tactically, it was very good from our guys, our idea was good. It’s unfortunate that they got the goal in the second half so fast. Baldi is growing in the team, Baldi needs to go through the right steps. And he’s not always going to have good days, some days it’s gonna be a roller coaster but Baldi is deserving to be in this roster right now. Ryan has flashes of good moments, but also a player still in development. We asked a lot from Theo today, to play and to try to work them as much as he could during 60 minutes against their centre backs. Fore Theo to play against these guys, it’s only gonna allow him to grow and to become better. And I think those are the parts that I would say are the positive parts from this game tonight.”
On the halftime message:
“We addressed a lot the moment where we won the ball, and we could have done better, and we showed them two clips that we got from upstairs to show them what we meant by that. And we reinforced that defensively, we had to stay very close to each other, continuing like that. And in the moment of transition when we won the ball, make sure that we got that ball out of the pressure, open the lines very well, because there was more space than we thought. Unfortunately I think that goal makes us have to push to go after the tie. But again, based on the amount of effort we have to put in on Saturday against San Jose, based on the recovery time, based on the amount of rotation, I think that the guys gave everything they are, they had the right mindset, the right mentality. Sometimes we forget against who we’re playing, me I am too much a fan of this game to not be honest with the quality of the opponent also. The opponent is good. The opponent is a contender to win MLS Cup again.”
On the quick turnaround:
“I feel that the league tried their best to condense the schedule and get it done as fast as possible because there’s a lot of pressure called COVID. And I think there’s many people who are scared of what the US could look like. But when we got the schedule, we were concerned about this game initially, we knew it would be a challenge. We didn’t know the implication when it came to points, but we knew it would be a challenge and then we had to live with it. We’re not in our stadium. And then there’s a lot of things that go around that. We wanted this game to be played tomorrow but Portland had their game here tomorrow. Then we can’t play on Thursday because Seattle has to play again. They have also their challenges with the Seahawks when they play home. So it’s a lot of pieces that need to get together and right now because we’re not at home, we have to accept a little bit how things are with the stadiums that are not ours. So, that was a challenge and we had to live with that demand.”
On any upcoming roster changes:
“Nothing’s gonna happen. Nothing, these are the guys we go to war with until the end of the season.”
On plan for the week:
“Tomorrow we’re training. The players that have played, they’re gonna do a recovery training session. The players that have played less, they’re gonna be in a training session of about maybe an hour. We’ll have Thursday off. They need that day. We train Friday, Saturday, and we’re ready on Sunday.”
On going over tonight’s game:
“I’m a little bit frustrated with the goal we conceded the first one, because I don’t understand the rules of VAR, and the linesman lifted his flag, it’s offside. And then it needs to be clear and obvious and for me, the images that I saw, it is not clear and obvious. So to go back tactically and look at that image, yes, we’re going to see defensively what we could have done better. But then what we need to do is make sure that everybody is ready to go at 100 percent, I think everybody will be ready to go. And I’m excited to work the next days based again on our principles. Today we changed to a 3-4-3, it is a system that I would call our second system. Our first system is the 4-4-2 right now. And we have to go back in the next two, three days and reinforce how we want to look like tactically for the game against Portland. But we won’t take this game and just put it on the side, we’re still going to take parts of it and go through it with players because I think there’s good moments to show the players.”
Thoughts on the match:
“It’s a tough match. Seattle’s a good team, they’ve showed that all season long, they’ve showed that for the past few years. So you know it’s always going to be a difficult game against the Sounders, it’s a rivalry game for us, and I thought we came out very strong in the first 45 minutes.”
On the first half:
“I thought we were compact, I thought we were tight, we pressed well. Obviously we wanted to be a little bit more attacking. But again, Seattle’s a good team and we absorbed their pressure and you could tell that they were getting frustrated not being able to find spaces and pockets, so they would resort to going over top and I thought we were pretty sound defensively. Obviously we wanted to reinforce that in the second half and there’s a little bit of adversity thrown our way. What ended up being goal was called offside on the field and then went to video review. I haven’t had a chance to look at it again, but you know you trust the officials making the decision that they made the right call, but it’s unfortunate for us.”
On playing on two days rest:
“That’s the difficult thing of the scheduling this season. You’ve had back-to-back games and three games in a week for the past I don’t even know how many weeks now. But you’ve got to do what you can. You’ve got to have a deep team, guys have to come in and be able to do jobs well and I thought the guys who stepped on the field today, they held their own. We have another game coming up so we have to have a pretty quick turnover and be prepared for our next game because it’s the most important one of the season.”
On what to take from this match going into Sunday versus Portland:
“Mentality. We’ve had to deal with adversity all season long and I don’t think you’ve seen a mentality shift in our squad. You see a team that is always prepared to go out and fight and we’ll look to keep fighting for their remainder of the season.”
On the players who stepped in:
“I think that the guys who came in for this game, they did very well. We stuck to our game plan, everybody did their jobs, and that’s the reason why we were 0-0 up until half. You saw a team that was willing to fight for each other, to come for each other, and a team that played for each other and that takes a strong mentality from not only the individual but from the group itself as a team that is playing like a team and shows a strong character.”
On seven Canadians starting:
“It’s great to see, you want Canadian soccer to keep growing and growing. It’s not just the Canadian boys that I’m proud. I’m proud of the whole team today, especially in the first half coming out strong and sticking to our game plan. I have been proud of this team all season long. Like I said, the adversity, we had to fight through in Orlando, through the restart, and up until now being away from our homes, being away from our families, and making Portland our new home. So I’m proud of this squad, I will continue to be proud of this squad up until the end and we’ll keep fighting for that playoff push.”
On how his leg is:
“It just cramped up me really hard. Doc’s got me a nice hot shot to get my muscles going again and I’ll be alright.”
On the defensive performance in the first half:
“The team defended well, as a group, we limited them to any real clear chances in the first half. Second half, we want to try and see what we can get on the counter attack, see what we can find going forward. Unfortunately we tried to get pressure on the ball by keeping that higher line, pushing the midfielders on, pushing the strikers on, and they get a goal in behind that looks like offside, I haven’t really seen it again. You know they say it has to be a clear and obvious mistake, I’m not sure if it was that, but again I haven’t seen it again so I don’t want to say too much. But that one really hurts us. Then we switched to a back four, we wanted to be more aggressive, get more players forward coming off the bench, and then unfortunately again a similar kind of thing with a high line and the ball in behind, they get a second one and then it’s hard to get back in the game from there. But overall it was always going to be a tough game coming up against a very good team in Seattle, a team that’s played together for a few years now. So we can’t hang our heads too long, we have another important game on the weekend that we all need to focus for and be ready for.”
On what to take from a game like this:
“Every game there’s pros and cons. I’ve said it a few times now, every game we re-watch them, we go through it with the coaching staff, the whole team. We see where we’ve been good, we see areas where we can improve on. I think this game is going to be no different. The back five is not a formation we’ve used too much this year. For everyone in a short turnaround to adjust to that and be on the same page with a lot of new guys on the field, it was something to be proud of, something to really give ourselves a pat on the back for, but at the end of the day the result is the most important thing. We’ve got to keep working and pushing to be better so that we can consistently get good results.”
On not being able to train as much with so many games and staying ready to play:
“Our coaching staff have been saying it for the whole time, in a condensed season like this, we really need everybody and I think today shows that. You’re right in the fact that we haven’t been able to train as much because half of the time the guys who are playing have to be in recovery mode, other guys have to go out and train. So it’s not like the whole team is always together. I think everyone is now sick of the team meetings we’ve had because we’re having a lot, you know, but I think that’s our way of getting the groups together, getting everyone on the same page, and that’s the only choice you really have right now. I think the team has done well to stay aware of what’s going on in those meetings so that on the field everyone knows what they’re doing.”
On the 12th consecutive year making the playoffs:
“It’s obviously a big moment for the club. I think, and I would like to even push that back to the USL days and NASL days, this club has always been a winning club. It’s something that’s within the DNA, the culture of our club. I reminded the players before the game about the great players that we’ve had at this club and what does it take to make it to the playoffs and other sports franchises and how and asking them questions so that they can reflect on the job that they do. What I would come back with is that the reason that we’ve been in the playoffs for 12 straight years. Obviously Sigi [Schmid] laid a great foundation, very grateful for that. But the reason this club has made it 12 years in a row is because the players always are committed to themselves, they’re committed to their teammates, they’re committed to the fans, and it’s that type of culture that can drive, that can be successful, that can win championships. If the players come collectively and they believe in themselves, that is the strongest version of a team. And so that’s what we have with the Sounders. That’s what we have with this particular group, I’ve noticed it even back in Orlando, in the bubble, even when things are tough. That group, they stick together. And so, I’m awfully, awfully proud of this particular version of the Sounders, and I’m awfully proud of the club for the success that we’ve had in getting in the playoffs for 12 years.”
On his partnership with Raúl Ruidíaz:
“Thank you for the nice words. Indeed, Raúl [Ruidíaz] helps the team and, more than that, the team went to work today. The most important thing was to manage our patience better than in previous matches. This was a very important win, an important result, it builds our confidence and put us back on the track of wins, of winning.”
On international experience helping him in MLS:
“Thank you for the words, very happy for our win tonight. It’s very important to bring this institution once again to the [playoffs]. I’m very happy about that. I’m definitely building my confidence. It has been important personally and, well, this is an entire process in which I grow as a player. I feel that I’m in my best moment and the point is to keep working, learning, and demonstrating on the pitch.”