SEATTLE — Needing a win in the worst way, the Seattle Sounders played one of their most complete games of the season. Victor Rodriguez, Nicolas Lodeiro and Clint Dempsey all scored goals as the Sounders dispatched the Western Conference-leading Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 on Wednesday.
It was the Sounders’ first win since Aug. 20 -- a span of six games — moved them within a point of first place and, perhaps more importantly, seven points clear of playoff line.
The Sounders returned to CenturyLink Field coming off a 2-0 loss at Real Salt Lake over the weekend. Former Sounder Fredy Montero was in the Whitecaps’ starting lineup, while the Sounders shook things up with Dempsey at lone striker and Cristian Roldan in the No. 10 spot. Chad Marshall returned to the starting lineup for Seattle as well, bumping Gustav Svensson to central midfield next to Osvaldo Alonso. The lineup changes paid off almost immediately.
Seattle controlled possession early and created some pretty dangerous chances in the opening minutes, but a handful fizzed just wide of goal while others were stopped by the Whitecaps defense. Lodeiro had a shot blocked by a defender’s head, while Joevin Jones’ powerful shot from distance swerved just outside the post. The few opportunities for Vancouver were fairly tame at first, most notably the handful of crosses that fizzed across goal and out of play.
The Sounders really bombarded the Whitecaps’ goal around the 15-minute mark, first when Roldan used his skill to open up a ton of space in the box for himself and take a shot, but it bounced agonizingly off the post. Just a few moments later, though, Victor Rodriguez danced past a couple of defenders and made a quick shot at a tight angle that was too fast for the goalkeeper and slipped into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
A bit of a defensive lapse nearly allowed the away side to equalize, when Stefan Frei had to run off his line and out of the box to head the ball before an attacker could latch onto it. The Whitecaps swarmed the Seattle defense, but great work by Torres kept them from doing anything dangerous with it. A weird sequence of events led to a couple of yellow cards for Vancouver, first when Yordy Reyna was shown one for simulation outside the Seattle box and later when Kendall Waston knocked over Roldan off the ball.
The Whitecaps had another dangerously close chance to equalize after Alonso gave up a free kick just outside Seattle’s box. Montero’s free kick was destined for the top corner, but Frei made an incredible diving save with his fingertips that pushed the ball onto the crossbar and back into play. It wasn’t quite as big as the save in the MLS Cup final, but it was close.
The Sounders’ fortunes changed dramatically just before the end of the half, as Alonso seemed to pull up with a muscle injury and had to be substituted off. Nouhou came on for him, pushing Jones up the wing and shifting Roldan back to Alonso’s spot in central midfield.
The second half started much less frantically than the first, as both teams struggled to get going. Seattle nearly had another big injury blow when Marshall went down, but after a few minutes he managed to get going again. The Sounders were well organized in building attacks, but the players were rarely on the same page when it came to the final ball. Jones had a number of chances on the left, but rarely made the best decision and usually ended up losing the ball.
That changed in the 60th minute when Dempsey had the first near-chance with a rocket of a shot from the edge of the box that audibly clanged off the crossbar. Seattle didn’t stop there, constantly hitting the Whitecaps goal until they finally counterattacked 4v3. A great pass from Rodriguez found Jones on the left, and his dragged diagonal pass found Lodeiro’s run. A first time blast from Lodeiro and the Sounders went up 2-0 in the 62nd minute.
The onslaught didn’t stop there, as the Seattle attack continued to overwhelm the Whitecaps. Dempsey started a quick break with a clever flick to Nouhou that put him into space on the left. The play ended with a great cross from Lodeiro to what seemed like empty space in the box, only for Dempey to rushing into the space and he smash it past Ousted to make the score 3-0 in the 69th.
The home team nearly found the net again with about 20 minutes to go, as Rodriguez found a wayward cross on the right and fizzed a pass across the penalty spot. It missed its target, Will Bruin, and took a weird deflection to Dempsey, but he couldn’t control it and it bounced back to goal, where it was blocked and cleared by a defender.
The Sounders held strong in the final minutes of the match, bolstered in injury time by a red card to Tony Tchani after the Whitecaps midfielder cleared Roldan out by the shin long after the ball was gone. The referee came to the decision that the foul was worth a sending off after reviewing it on VAR. Seconds after issuing the card, he blew the final whistle to end it 3-0 to Seattle.
With the win, the Sounders also moved to the top of the Cascadia Cup table, one point clear of the Portland Timbers. The Cup will be decided on Oct. 22 when the Timbers host the Whitecaps, needing a win to overtake the Sounders.
The Sounders return to action on Sunday at the Philadelphia Union before taking a couple weeks off for the international break and concluding their season with two home games.