Who You’ll Watch
The Seattle Sounders return to action after a week off for international duty. Seattle will look to extend their MLS record win streak to nine games and their unbeaten run to 12 games when they take on the Vancouver Whitecaps. Their 2-0 win against the Whitecaps on July 21 started this current win streak. Any point for Seattle will see them take home the Cascadia Cup, as well as keep them ahead of the Whitecaps in the playoff race. This is also the final regular season meeting between the two clubs.
Vancouver is currently sitting in seventh place in the Western Conference standings with a record of 11-9-7 (40 points in 27 games played; 1.48 ppg) while the Sounders sit right above them in sixth place with a record of 12-9-5 (41 points in 26 games played; 1.58 ppg). Last time out, Vancouver defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 on Sept. 1 and the Sounders won 3-1 against Sporting Kansas City, also on Sept. 1.
Every point matters right now, especially with Vancouver sitting directly beneath them in the standings. If Seattle want to keep their streak of hosting a playoff game every single year, they likely need to keep their winning streak going in order to stay in reach of Portland and Real Salt Lake, both on 44 points.
A Look at the Enemy
Last Five: T-W-T-W-W with 10 goals scored and eight goals conceded
Leading Goal Scorer: Kei Kamara, 11 goals (six at home)
Assist Leader: Alphonso Davies, ten assists (nine at home)
Injury Report, Suspensions and International Duty
Out: Jose Aja (left quad injury) and Jordon Mutch (right foot injury)
Suspensions: Yordy Reyna (Yellow card accumulation)
International Duty: N/A
Out: Jordan Morris (torn ACL) and Felix Chenkam (herniated disc)
Questionable: Victor Rodriguez (right hamstring strain)
International Duty: N/A
REFEREE: Robert Sibiga
AR1: Eric Weisbrod
AR2: Jeremy Kieso
4th: Drew Fischer
VAR: Geoff Gamble
What to Watch
Not much has changed for the Whitecaps since they helped launch Seattle’s charge up the MLS standings. Let’s borrow from the last scouting report;
Vancouver Whitecaps’ system
Our little brothers to the north are my favorite team to review. It’s hard to explain why the Whitecaps fall just short so continuously, but they’re so earnest in their efforts that you can’t help but want to ruffle their hair and give them a “you’ll get ‘em next time, tiger”. True to head coach Carl Robinson’s seeming ethos, they remain the most counterattackingest team in the league. As bad as they are on the road (-14 goal difference), they are considerably better at home (+7 goal-difference). Robinson has been playing with a 4-5-1 with a dedicated CDM and two CMs who run a sort of double pivot adjusted for opponents. With Reyna out, the duty of playmaker/second-forward will likely fall to Nicolás Mezquida, who has two goals in his past five appearances.
The biggest saving grace for us Sounders fans, who at this point almost certainly all have some sort of pattern baldness from ripping our hair out over ignored fouls, is that Vancouver tends to avoid fouling. They’re much more willing to allow the ball to continue moving, a tango of tension happily danced around their 18-yard box so long as the defenders are able to keep the ball in front of them. Unsurprisingly, they spend a lot of time defending; only the Colorado Rapids spend more time in their own third.
The downside to this is, of course, that it often leads to a packed box and a few dozen worthless, wasteful, pointless crosses being dumped in by attackers who’ve run out of ideas. We’ve seen that movie before and it isn’t much fun. The back four operates in what has become the soup du jour: centerbacks that split out wide to cover the intermediate channels with a CDM that drops in between to cover the central line. With the way the Sounders offensive talent is trending, this looks to be exploitable with a lone forward that moves in these in-between spaces. These are the same spaces that Atlanta’s Josef Martinez exploits so efficiently against MLS defenses.
Normally this is where we’d talk about how the team transitions, and what shifts are made, but Vancouver doesn’t have that — they just have spin and attack. If there’s one thing the Whitecaps do know it’s counterattacking, and they’re remarkably well-balanced between the three main channels with these. Both outside backs are given the freedom to attack and support high, but this isn’t a team that looks to build long, drawn out possession.
They’re there to pull defenses wider and open space for the angled runs of Kamara and Christian Techera, and to create a bit more operating space for Davies.
Once again a the Sounders face a Whitecaps team with a questionable defense and an offense with scary potential only on paper. It’s not going to be an easy match, but it’s also a match that feels like an inevitable 2-1 victory.
- Prepare for late onslaught. Vancouver ups the tempo in the final 15 with 29 total goals scored in the waning moments of the match. Seattle has scored and allowed only 11 in that same time.
- Pressure backline. Whitecaps have six penalties scored agains them, second most in the league.
- Track Alphonso Davies. The left-winger is a true difference maker who can blaze down the line and slot passes. He didn’t play in the first meeting and is a rather massive x-factor.
- Willpower. Whenever down and out the Rave Green seem to rally. They have no fear. Their power of will pushes them beyond the talent on the field.
How to Watch
Date/Time: Saturday, September 16 @ 7:00 PM
Location: BC Place — Vancouver, BC, Canada
Streaming: YouTube TV (Seattle region only) and ESPN+ (out of market)
Radio: 950 KJR AM (English) and El Rey 1360AM