Sooner or later, a team's depth can only go so far. The Seattle Sounders found that out on Saturday in their 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. After playing the last couple months with multiple starters and managing to go 4-0-1 in the process, missing both starting forwards, both center mids and using their third-choice right back was apparently too much against a side that was effectively first choice.
The Sounders weren't played off the pitch, though, and actually were the better team in the second half. If Lamar Neagle's screamer from an amazing Marco Pappa switch just before he was substituted off had managed to find side netting, there's a pretty good chance they would have pulled this one out.
As it were, we got our first real glimpse of Tristan Bowen who at least brought some speed to a team that was sorely lacking it for the first 55 minutes.
To their credit, the Sounders weren't looking for excuses. They felt there was plenty of talent on the field to get a result and they're probably right. The lineup they used would probably be good enough to make the playoffs. The Sounders still had more shots (14-13) and slightly more possession (50.1-49.9)
Reinforcements will arrive this week, one way or another, and it's worth remembering that this loss "dropped" the Sounders to 9-2-2 in their past 14 and means they went 4-1-1 in matches without their World Cup contingent. This is a team playing as well as anyone in the league, one admittedly frustrating result to a very motivated Whitecaps team aside.
VAN - Sebastian Fernandez (Pedro Morales) 12'
Seattle Sounders FC - Stefan Frei; Jalil Anibaba, Chad Marshall, Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez (Aaron Kovar 86); Lamar Neagle (Tristan Bowen 55), Brad Evans, Micheal Azira, Marco Pappa; Kenny Cooper (Cam Weaver 74), Chad Barrett.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Pappa 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Barrett, Pappa 1); FOULS: 21 (Barrett 4); OFFSIDE: 1 (Barrett 1); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Pappa 2); SAVES: 5 (Frei 5).
Vancouver Whitecaps FC - David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Carlyle Mitchell, Johnny Leveron, Jordan Harvey; Gershon Koffie, Matias Laba, Sebastian Fernandez (Russell Teibert 86), Pedro Morales (Christian Dean 90+3); Kekuta Manneh (Nigel Reo-Coker 68), Erik Hurtado.
Substitutes Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Darren Mattocks, Omar Salgado, Nicolas Mezquida.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Hurtado 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Hurtado, Manneh 2); FOULS: 12 (Hurtado 3); OFFSIDE: 1 (Manneh 1); CORNER KICKS: 0; SAVES: 2 (Ousted 2).
SEA - Chad Barrett (caution) 79'
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: Frank Anderson, Mike Rottersman
4th Official: Drew Fischer
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Cloudy and 66 degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
General thoughts on the match:
"I didn't think we started the match very well. I think we caught it a little bit and we had a good ten minute patch right around the 30 minute mark in the first half. We started to get into the game, and I thought we played better. In the second half, hats off to them, I thought they played with a lot of passion because of the results that they had had and we didn't really match that completely until the second half. Then, they end up scoring a great goal, guy hits a great shot. We had some opportunities and Stefan made some saves. We were around, but we didn't put shots accurately enough on goal. This is a bump in the road. That's all it is."
On missing Pineda and Alonso:
"It doesn't matter who's missing - it's talking about the players who played. We had enough quality on the field to get a result and to play. I thought Evans played very well and worked really, really hard. Azira took a little bit of time to get into the game, but afterwards, he was much better. He had a good open shot as well, similar to Fernandez's space, where he ended up scoring the goal from. I think different people stepped up - Marco Pappa was very good tonight, was very active. It's been a long time since Chad Barrett played 90 minutes and I thought he gave a good account of himself over 90 minutes. There were a lot of guys that had decent performances.
On the improvements Seattle made in the second half:
I think it's just that we were better. We were better about possessing the ball. I thought in the first half, we gave the ball away a bit too easily, especially when we got balls into our forwards back to goal. We turned the ball over and we needed to hold on to the ball to give our team a chance to push forward as a team, as a unit. Once we started doing that in the second half, we started to get better looks, better chances, get around the goal. In the end, it wasn't enough.
General thoughts on the match:
"I think the guys were hungry. It took us a little while to get in the game, and all it was in the first half was not holding the ball up front. It makes it difficult to play the way that we want to play, and get our forwards and outside wingers involved. It was a difficult day for us in the first 35-40 minutes. After that, I feel we settled in the second half, played much better challenging for balls. Obviously, the guys that were missing are game-changers, that's why they're DPs and that's why they've played in World Cups and some of the biggest games. Obviously, you're going to miss that quality, but that's no excuse not to play your game and not to play the game the way it should be played. I thought that in the second half, we got a little ripping into and we came out much stronger. Aside from their phenomenal strike, not too much from Vancouver tonight. We were unlucky not too get one ourselves and tie it up."
On Vancouver disrupting Seattle early on in the match:
"I think they were challenging for every ball and playing physical. In the beginning, we weren't up to the challenge and it shouldn't take us a goal to get us to get going, so it's just a mentality thing and next game we'll be better I'm sure."
On dealing with Whitecaps FC's front line:
"I think my speed is as good as anyone's in this league. It's just a matter of getting that final ball, final shot on goal. I think when that comes, that'll be something that sets me apart from the rest of the guys in the league. I think it was decent, and it's just something to build off of."
On piecing games together without the missing players:
"It's been difficult but I think that's one of the things that the team focused on in the off season. Which was to create a lot more depth within the team. And you see that the guys that came in, they didn't really miss a step. So I think that's one thing the team did well this off season, but it's just a matter of going out there and getting results. Whether it's guys that haven't played much minutes, or guys that have been playing minutes, it's a matter of getting out there, and getting a result for the team."
On the team's slow start:
"First half we weren't really here. Especially with the way they came out against us the first fifteen minutes of the game last time. We just let them come at us for the first forty-five minutes, but a lot of it was the forwards' fault. We couldn't hold the ball the first half to save our lives, me included. In the second half, coach came in and said a few words, and lit a fire under us, and I thought we came at it, and at least competed. They really buckled down with the defence. I thought we probably had the possession in the second half, but still the soccer had to be better."
On what to take away:
"That you can't take everything for granted. You can't just take that you have a ten point cushion that people are going to respect you. They came out and they wanted to show that this was a game changer for them, because they came out flat in the games before this, and they came out, and they scored a great goal, and I think that really lifted them, and got the fans involved. When you get the fans involved, that can really change the game for a team. For us, it's not a big deal. Yeah we have some points to sit on, but we don't want that. We want to keep building, and building, and building, and try to build our lead as much as we can, make playoffs as quickly as we can. You know it was tough without some of the guys here tonight, but we have a very deep team, and we put out a team that we thought could win, and we just didn't get it done tonight."
On it being the first loss to a west coast team:
"I didn't even know that. But Vancouver is a good team, even when we tied them up here, we all thought they were a good team. They go forward well, they counter well, and they can hold possession. They put out a very strong lineup against us tonight, and they deserved the win, and we didn't deserve to win today. With the guys we came out with we could have won, but we didn't have the right mindset I don't think."
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC
On Fernandez' goal
"When you see him shoot like that, I want him to shoot a little bit more. I thought he was fantastic today, I really did. I thought it's probably as good as he's played. He's scored some great goals for us. Three now. But his all-around performance today was excellent and it was just rewarded."
For a player (Fernandez) pulled off at half time last week, is it an important step showing that confidence in him again?
"I make decisions for the good of the team. Nothing is ever personal. I make sure I reiterate that to the players. Certain players who played last week...sometimes you start and then you don't get in the 18. I had to leave Medhi out of the 18 today because I just wanted a different option off the bench. Nothing is ever personal, it's all done for the benefit of the team and obviously today it worked, so great reaction by Sebastian."
After a couple sub-par performances, Seattle might have be the team to play. Was that what your team needed this game?
"Well after winning 1-0, yes. I think any game you play against Seattle is always tough, physical. I think we've had two games against them now where it's draining. I said to the players in there that they must be absolutely exhausted, because I am and I haven't even won. It's credit to them; the game has come at the right time for us. We haven't performed to our levels. I don't think we've been bad, but I don't think we've been good. And obviously not scoring a goal in two games is being talked about. But we got back to work this week and we refocused on certain things. I think the two halves were totally different. I thought the first half, we were excellent in possession. Our passing and movement is what we've been accustomed to, what I've been accustomed to in training and the first 10-12 games of the season. The second half was just about rolling the sleeves up -- grip, desire and heart. And the reason I said Seattle were the best team in MLS before the match was because they always hang in there, even when things are going against them. We have to learn that, as a young group. It's not going to happen overnight, but performances like this and learning situations like this, we will be better for it."
General thoughts on the match
"It was a great game, and a great result. After the last two games without a point, it's good to bring home three points."
On Seattle missing five players
"We don't really talk about that. We are all about the three points and we got it here tonight."
Getting back on track and looking ahead
"The last three game were not bad; we didn't get the results we wanted but tonight we came out strong. We'll keep the momentum going from this game. It's great to win 1-0 against the best team in the league. We don't have to win 3-0 or 4-0, but to keep the lead and clean sheet is important. Sometimes you win not by playing the best game, but by getting the points, but that's what we did tonight."
On Johnny Leveron
"Johnny had a great game. I'm proud of him tonight. Maybe he had a couple of tough games, but he got back to form tonight."
General thoughts on the match:
"Today's game was a tough game, and it was an opportunity for me. I took my chance and fortunately scored, which was very important for us. It's about us and what we did together."
On his propensity to score from outside the 18:
"It seems like I have a little more luck from outside the box, at least a little more than from inside the box. Hopefully, soon I'll score a goal from inside the box."
On his goal:
"Pedro put a good ball to me, I turned with the ball and, fortunately, there was space. I practice this all the time, so I just took the opportunity and went to shoot."
On the team's performance...
"I think the team played very good today. [It was] a good game against a difficult team, but I think that today the team [was] very good. I am happy. The guys are very happy for today for the win in a very important game."
On the importance of winning a derby match...
"It's extremely important and also just a chance for us to show our fans again of what we're capable of.
On the shift tonight compared to the previous two performances
"I think it was the attitude. We kept the ball [well]. I hope to continue with this attitude as a team."