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Scouting Report: The Vancouver Whitecaps

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It’s the last chance for Cascadia Cup points and a vital match for the standings

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

What You’ll Watch

In the third and final episode of the Battle of the Peace Arch we find the Sounders looking to right the yacht after a bit of rough seas. Coming off their first loss in over three months, but also winless in their last 5, the Seattle Sounders will host the Vancouver Whitecaps in a mid-week match.

Vancouver sit at the top of the Western Conference (48 points in 29 games played; 1.66 ppg) while the Sounders sit in fourth place (44 points in 30 games played; 1.47 ppg).

Vancouver is coming off of a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids while the Sounders suffered their first defeat since June 17, losing 2-0 against Real Salt Lake. A win by the Sounders on Wednesday would put them in first place of the Cascadia Cup standing and would also eliminated Vancouver from winning the Cup.

Current Form

Vancouver Whitecaps

Form: W-W-W-D-W with 12 goals scored; six conceded

Top Scorers: Fredy Montero, 12 goals

Top Assist Leader: Christina Bolanos; seven assists

Sounders

Form: D-D-D-D-L with three goals scored; five conceded

Top Scorer: Clint Dempsey; 11 goals

Top Assist Leader: Joevin Jones; 10 assists

Absences: Injury, international duty, suspension

Vancouver Whitecaps

According to MLS’ injury report, Vancouver will be without David Edgar (PCL, MCL tear) and Matias Laba (torn ACL 8/12, out for season) while Christian Bolaños (left knee contusion) is listed as questionable. Montero and Tony Tchani are both one yellow card away from a mandatory one-game suspension.

Seattle

It’s more of the same for Seattle. Brad Evans (lower back pain), Jordan Morris (right hamstring strain) and Calum Mallace (left quad strain) are all listed as out. Chad Marshall (left hamstring strain) is still listed as questionable.

Referee Assignments

REF: ROBERT SIBIGA

AR1: Peter Manikowski

AR2: Mike Kampmeinert

4TH: Baboucarr Jallow

VAR: Allen Chapman

What to Watch

Despite losing the highly valuable Matias Laba for the season, Vancouver has lost no momentum. Aly Ghazal has covered ably and distributed wisely, allowing a confident offense to keep banging in goals without missing a beat.

Statistically speaking Vancouver hasn’t had the best year defensively; they concede the third most shots per match (14.8), are near the bottom in tackles per match, and yet they’ve conceded two or fewer goals in 75% of their matches on the road. In truth, their issue continues to be that teams are able to get too close to goal before being shut down by Tim Parker and Kendall Waston. Also, as you may recall from the most recent match, the answer to many of their defensive questions continues to be David Ousted.

The Whitecaps’ transition game is still where they make their money. Few teams in the league are as dangerous on the break. In fact, they seem to much prefer attacking on the move over a more static, ball-movement oriented offense.

Early in the season Vancouver struggled with spacing, particularly with overcrowding in the middle. A bit of restructuring as the season has progressed has provided appropriate width to allow for the wings to sit in the channels rather than the center, and the outside backs to attack smartly. Meanwhile, Fredy Montero and Jordy Reyna have formed a potent pivot at the 10/false 9 positions.

Seattle will have their hands full.

Slow the transition - for some teams a lack of fouls is indicative of a defense that relies on half-hearted stabs and errors by the offense to survive. The Sounders’ defense is so good that the lack of fouls is really a reflection of rarely needing to. In this one they’re going to need to.

The RCB-RB pivot of Kelvin Leerdam and Roman Torres is going to have to be perfect. Nouhou or Joevin Jones is going to have to spend considerable mental and physical energy protecting the defensive left (Vancouver’s overwhelming favorite side to attack), but will be relied on as well to provide significant offensive contribution.

These things are not going to be successful if Vancouver is able to transition at their normal speed. Their runs are smart, well-spaced, and connected in ways that are maybe best described as an Atlanta United-lite. Without the ability to consistently press high to pin them deeper, Seattle will need to maintain positioning and track runners as intently as any match they’ve played all year.

Find offensive structure - the Sounders haven’t been great lately - record aside - at playing connected on offense. Too often it seems as though Seattle has fielded a highly talented pickup team. Thirty matches into the season and players still seem to struggle with recognizing each other’s runs, anticipating movement, or making secondary and tertiary runs off each other.

Somehow, some way, this has to change. There’s no longer the benefit of the balance of a season to figure things out. The loss of Jordan Morris for the near-term and the apparent demotion of Joevin Jones means the team has to figure out a way to outsmart opponents. Will Bruin banging around down low isn’t going to result in easy goals. Three players dribbling in a crowd at the top of the box isn’t a recipe for success.

Shots have not been hard to come by. Goals, at times, have poured in. The ability is there. Whether they’re able to find some mix of guile and dynamism that allows for more consistent quality scoring threats, or whether they’ll fall yet again into the recycled horseshoe of death, is probably the most important key to a very important match.

Expected Lineups

Vancouver Whitecaps: Ousted; Marcel de Jong, Parker, Waston, Jakob Nerwinski; Tchani, Ghazal; Brek Shea, Reyna, Cristian Techera; Montero

Seattle Sounders: Stefan Frei; Jones, Marshall, Torres, Leerdam; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Victor Rodriguez, Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro; Bruin

How to Watch

Date/Time: September 27 at 7:30 PM

Venue: CenturyLink Field

Television: JOEtv, ROOT Sports (outside of Seattle metro area)

Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (English), El Rey 1360 AM (Spanish)

Streaming: MLS Live (blackout restrictions apply)