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Talking points: Cream rises to the top

Sounders are riding high after another emphatic win.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

“Goals change games.”

That adage proved more than correct for the Sounders in their 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday night at Century Link Field. For the first 45 minutes the Sounders controlled possession and dominated on the stat sheet, yet had nothing to show for it. It wasn’t a poor performance by any stretch, but the final bit of quality was missing. One minute into the second half, the switch flipped courtesy of a golazo from Designated Player João Paulo and the Sounders were off to the races.

With the victory the Sounders now find themselves alone at the top of the Western Conference, and within reach of the Supporters’ Shield. With three of their top players set to depart for international duty for most of October, the Sounders will rely on their reinforcements to protect their home field if they want to stay there.

João Paulo’s class performance

João Paulo has shown more than flashes of his quality in his short time with the team thus far. He got off to a great start, scoring in the Champions League before Covid and an injury that kept him out of MLS is Back. Since returning to Phase 2 of the MLS season, JP has shown why Sounders General Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey brought him in before the season. His game against the Whitecaps may have been his best yet thus far.

Controlling possession from his deep-lying defensive midfield position, JP displayed his trademark passing, spraying diagonal passes to get the Sounders into attacking positions. Of course, his most important contribution came in the 46th minute as he pounced on a clearance and laced a shot from 20 yards out that got the Sounders up and running past a stubborn Whitecaps defense.

Roldan coming into his own on the wing

Coming off his two-goal performance in Los Angeles, it was fair to wonder what Cristian Roldan would do for an encore against Vancouver. While he didn’t quite score, he had another fine performance. Aside from his usual workrate, Roldan had a key role in the opening goal, getting free on the wing and sending the initial pass that forced the Whitecaps defense onto its heels. Roldan as also instrumental in the second goal when he once again got free on the wing and fired in a cross that Whitecaps goalkeeper Bryan Meredith deflected off Érik Godoy for an own-goal.

Centerbacks handle Vancouver’s dynamic duo

If there is one part of Vancouver’s roster that can give opponents a headache, it’s certainly the attacking duo of Fredy Montero and Lucas Cavallini. While Montero needs no introduction to Sounders fans, this was the Sounders’ first look at Cavallini, the most expensive Designated Player in Whitecaps history. Both Yeimar Gomez Andrade and Xavier Arreage acquitted themselves well, limiting Cavallini to one dangerous chance and not allowing Montero a shot from open play.

How many ways can a referee get one call wrong

As Schmetzer noted after the game, being a referee is a tough job, and nobody gets every call right. But it’s hard to overstate the debacle that took up much of the time between the 60th and 66th minutes. Yeimar was initially whistled for a foul on Cavallini inside the box, and was subsequently sent off when the foul was deemed a denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Replays make it pretty clear that Cavallini initiated the contact, that it was clearly started outside the penalty box, and any contact inside the box was incidental (and likely caused by Cavallini in any case). Referee Timothy Ford was almost immediately summoned by VAR official Armando Villarreal, and it looked for all the world that the entire sequence would be rescinded. Despite spending about three minutes in front of the replay monitor, Ford decided to uphold all of the decision except for the red card (which he changed to a yellow). After the game, Ford insisted that the foul occurred when Yeimar was falling to the ground and tripped Cavallini but that initial collision constituted an attempt to play the ball and thus negated DOGSO. If your head is spinning, you’re not alone.

Busy day for Bryan

Former Sounder Meredith made his return to CenturyLink field for the first time since being picked up in the expansion draft by Inter Miami (and subsequently traded to Vancouver). Meredith was a well-liked and engaging teammate, though he was never going to supplant Stefan Frei. That said, he was arguably the Whitecaps man of the match, and made several quality saves that kept the scoreline from getting out of hand with a first half stoppage time stop of a Nico Lodeiro volley, and a one-on-one stops on both Roldan and Morris.