It started off well and got better. Marred only by a Victor Rodriguez late first-half hamstring injury, the Sounders had few worries on the day. They ceded a significant portion of possession to Vancouver in the first half, who clearly had little idea what to do with the ball, but by the end of the match were ahead in almost every single statistical category — including the 2-0 scoreline.
The Sounders remain in 10th in the Western Conference, but gain three valuable points on their quest for a third straight run from the bottom to the top and move past the 1 point per game average on the season.
Both teams came out with energy, and just four minutes in a careless hand left high resulted in a penalty, just the second of the season for the Sounders, that Nicolas Lodeiro put away convincingly. The Sounders shifted almost immediately towards a more defensive focus (certainly not a bunker, though), and Vancouver was unable to generate enough functional passing to threaten seriously.
In the 32nd minute, after a quiet 10 minutes, Lodeiro took a bit of a speculative shot from distance that Stefan Marinović badly misjudged. He was able to get a hand to it while diving the wrong way, but could only delay the inevitable as it continued on its path into the net.
The biggest disappointment is almost certainly that Victor Rodriguez went down and stayed down in the 44th minute. The injury looked to be a left hamstring injury, and head coach Brian Schmetzer said the team would evaluate him in a week; almost certainly, then, putting him out for at least the next two matches. The injury comes at a bad time for Seattle, who just waived their best replacement for him. Osvaldo Alonso, who has struggled with both injury and quality of play of late, came on and had his best performance of the year.
Raul Ruidiaz didn’t start — he hasn’t played extensive game minutes since the beginning of May — and his arrival in the 61st minute was raucously cheered. He looked exactly like a player who has spent only a couple weeks worth of practice with the team, but there were flashes where his quality clearly showed through. A nice ball from Lodeiro put him on the centerback’s outside shoulder, and he quickly maneuvered himself in front and free onto goal for a shot that Marinović just saved.
The game effectively ended in the 78th minute, when Efrain Juárez made a bad tackle from behind on Lodeiro, then went after center referee Chris Penso and felt it a good idea to chest bump him. Penso wasted no time getting out the red card, and Vancouver, despite their efforts, had little chance to actually threaten the final result.
For a game that never felt particularly in doubt, there were a number of potential swing moments.
Lodeiro easily put the penalty that resulted from this handball away.
You can't use your hands in soccer!!! pic.twitter.com/UqMsY8sS5V— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 21, 2018
And his shot from distance probably should have been saved.
Knuckleball. pic.twitter.com/wjH1Srh7hn— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 21, 2018
Lodeiro, on the second goal: “I don’t know why the keeper moved that way...”— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 21, 2018
VAR did it’s job, overturning Penso’s initial call of handball in the box on this play.
Here was the call in question. Would've been a very harsh call. pic.twitter.com/1tlmDvqzy0— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 21, 2018
- The Sounders did what they were supposed to do. The Whitecaps are a rudderless team, and anything but maximum points would have been a huge problem. Instead, they looked entirely in control, even without the ball.
- The offensive interplay was a lot of fun. There have been many matches this year where the offense looked like a bunch of random players off the street who happen to have soccer skills. Today was not that. Passing was quick, movement was with intent and connected, and everything was done with a mind towards creating a goal quickly. Also of note, Lodeiro and Ruidiaz look to be on similar pages already; only good things can come of that.
- Unbeaten in four. In a season of frustration and bad breaks, that’s a huge deal. The team clearly is feeling a change in the winds, a thing both Schmetzer and Lodeiro noted in their postgame comments.
- VRod’s injury is a significant blow to the Sounders offense. He’s been a major threat and drawn more and more attention each week. His focus on attacking directly toward goal is going to be missed, particularly with the release of Magnus Wolff Eikrem and the introduction of Raul Ruidiaz. There’s nobody else on the roster who attacks quite like he does. In a pregame interview, GM Garth Lagerwey hinted at an attacking signing; hopefully this comes even faster, now.
- This team still lacks a bit of that step-on-their-throats mentality at the end of games. It’s great to see out a result, but the ability to force a result on the opponent is important. Some of that comes with confidence, a thing the team seems to be finding.
Seattle: Frei; Nouhou, Marshall, Kim, Leerdam; C. Roldan, Svensson; Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Shipp; Bruin
Vancouver: Marinović; de Jong, Henry, Waston, Nerwinski; Mutch, Felipe, Juarez; Techera, Kamara, Reyna
5’ Lodeiro (PK)
31’ Lodeiro (Rodriguez)