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Five things to watch against the Whitecaps

This is a game the Sounders should win.

Seattle Sounders FC v Vancouver Whitecaps FC - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

There might not be a team harder to figure out than the Vancouver Whitecaps. Tempting as it is to write them off as just another bad team, they’ve managed to go 3-3-0 in their last six. That includes a win over Toronto FC and another at Real Salt Lake. They’ve also lost 6-0 to LAFC, a performance so bad that they managed to break an MLS record by allowing four goals in the first 14 minutes and five inside 33 — two records the Sounders had just set against the San Jose Earthquakes about two weeks earlier.

While the Sounders handled Vancouver very easily at the MLS is Back Tournament — winning 3-0 — the Whitecaps were very short-handed in that game. Among the missing players were Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero and Andy Rose, all of whom started the Whitecaps most recent game. Just three players started both that game in July and the Whitecaps’ most recent game. In other words, we probably shouldn’t try to take too much from that specific result.

Here are some things I’ll be watching for:

Send Raul off in style

Barring an unforeseen development, it looks like Raúl Ruidíaz is going to report to Peru for a pair of World Cup qualifiers and will then need to quarantine for 10 days after returning to Seattle. In total, that’s likely going to cost him five games. This will likely be the last time we see Ruidíaz until the end of October. The Sounders need to make the most of this chance, especially if Ruidíaz has even the faintest of hopes of winning the Golden Boot.

Smith stretches his legs

The last time Brad Smith started a match for the Sounders was MLS Cup. He’s only even been training for about a week after more than two months off. Still, if I’m Brian Schmetzer now seems like a good time to give him a look. Not only are the Whitecaps a good matchup for him, but this is the only time for at least a month that the Sounders will be anything close to full strength. The Sounders should win this regardless of who starts at left back. Even assuming the starting job is Nouhou’s to lose, we won’t learn anything by seeing him start in this game.

Avoid the bunker

The Sounders are the highest scoring team in MLS this year, averaging 2.23 goals per game (which would be the third best in league history if maintained all season). The one thing they’ve struggled to break down is a bunker. The Whitecaps are among the least likely team ins MLS to apply high pressure (they’re also the least effective team at applying pressure, according to StatsBomb). The way to keep the Whitecaps from bunkering is to simply score early. The Sounders are 5-0-0 when they score within the first 25 minutes.

Let Morris rip

As much growth as we’ve seen from Jordan Morris over the past 18 months or so, the one element of his game that hasn’t entirely emerged is a long-range shot. It’s not just that he rarely scores from outside the box, it’s that he barely even tries to. In the Galaxy game, however, he showed there may be another layer to his game. Cutting in from the left wing, Morris twice came close to scoring from about 25 yards out, the second of which actually hit the crossbar. Considering how dominant he was in the first Whitecaps meeting, it would be great to see him take a couple more long-range rips.

Maintain home domination

The Sounders head into this game carrying a five-game home winning streak against the Whitecaps, including a playoff game in 2017. Seattle has won those games by a cumulative score of 9-0. If the Sounders have any hope of finishing with the best record in MLS, this is the kind of game they absolutely need to win.

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