Sometimes a match just seems destined to end in a draw. The Seattle Sounders had been creating chances, but thanks mostly to the goalkeeper of David Ousted, the match went into the 80th minute deadlocked at zero.
That’s when Nicolas Lodeiro did his thing, and Jordan Morris did the rest.
Lodeiro whipped in a cross from the left wing and Morris hit a perfect diving header to secure three points for the Sounders. It was Morris’ 10th goal of the season and none have been more important.
A tie wouldn’t have killed the Sounders’ postseason chances, but it would have been a painful blow and likely would have meant they needed to go undefeated over the final six games of the season. Three points doesn’t necessarily make the postseason anymore certain, but it does leave the window a little more wide open.
In truth, both teams needed the win just about equally. The Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps came into Saturday’s match with the mindset that anything less than a win could be devastating. Despite the Whitecaps being higher in the standings, the Sounders came into the match with better form (3-1-2) over the last six matches.
In the place of the still-absent Clint Dempsey, head coach Brian Schmetzer tried again to play Flaco Fernandez in the right attacking midfield role—his last start there, in Portland three weeks ago, ended early as he was substituted for Herculez Gomez at halftime. This meant that Lodeiro shifted towards the middle of the attack behind Morris, where Dempsey had been playing under Schmetzer. With Brad Evans still out due to a mild back injury, Roman Torres made his second start since returning from his long-term knee injury.
The Whitecaps looked the more dangerous side in the opening few minutes, most notably from silly set pieces conceded by the Sounders. Nothing came of those opportunities, and Stefan Frei snuffed out Vancouver’s most dangerous chance after he reached over the top of a Erik Hurtado to swipe the ball away after the forward had passed it to himself and get clear in on goal.
The Sounders’ best early chances came mostly through Lodeiro, but he never really threatened the goal. Andreas Ivanschitz had perhaps the closest opportunity with a curling shot from the corner of the box that went wide by the finest of margins.
The second half started similarly—the Whitecaps attacked quickly and created some dangerous chances, but the Sounders managed to snuff each of them out. An extended Seattle counterattack nearly led to a goal after Morris latched onto an excellent long ball, but the Sounders just couldn’t finish any of the opportunities they were given. Seattle then came agonizingly close to breaking through Ivanschitz after his sliding volley hit the post and Ousted scrambled to clear the danger from two awaiting Sounders.
The way this game has gone, it wasn’t much of a surprise, but both teams squandered golden chances near the 70th minute; the Sounders caught Ousted off his line in the box, but the ball bounced around before eventually getting cleared by Vancouver. That clearance produced a chance for the Whitecaps that they nearly scored, but substitute Giles Barnes’ shot bounced off the far post of the empty net.
Schmetzer brought on Erik Friberg late in the half, a move that nearly paid off as Friberg found Morris wide open in the box with a low cross—but the forward couldn’t get a clean shot and the ball was cleared by the defense. In the 81st minute, Morris made up for that missed opportunity with a diving header into the back of the Whitecaps’ net from a deep Lodeiro cross. The home side had a few nervous moments in the closing minutes, but managed to preserve a massive three points for Seattle.
The Sounders were able to leapfrog the Whitecaps into seventh, three points behind the Timbers with a game in hand pending Portland’s result later in the day. To make the postseason, the Sounders almost certainly need at least 10 more points from their final six games, three of which will be on the road.
As far less importance, the Sounders also kept alive their hopes of retaining in the Cascadia Cup. A loss or tie would have officially eliminated them, but they’ll still need the Whitecaps to beat the Timbers, then beat the Whitecaps themselves and hope the three-way tiebreaker goes their way.