SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders clinched their 13th consecutive MLS Cup Playoffs berth with a 4-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps at home on Saturday night. Things got started early when Kelyn Rowe and Shane O’Neill combined to open the scoring in the 5th minute and they never really looked back.
Although Vancouver took some wind out of the sails when they cut Seattle’s lead from 2-0 to 2-1 with a goal in first half stoppage, the Sounders never really looked like they were not in control of things. Everyone got in on the fun as Seattle paced Vancouver to the 4-1 win, with Rowe getting 3 assists, Montero 2, JP and Bruin each grabbing one themselves, and four different goal scorers.
Any concerns that may have crept in when Seattle hit a slump in the middle of the summer, then struggled to truly get out of it, have been thoroughly erased now. Following the team’s third 9-point “week” the Sounders smashed a Vancouver side that gave them trouble when they came to town back in June, and extended their winning streak to four-straight while scoring 12 goals in those games. They’re now quite firmly in control of the West, and are still 8 points behind New England with a game in hand and momentum building. Putting themselves in a good place and on good form as the playoffs approach is the top priority, but making a run at the Supporters Shield down the home stretch isn’t exactly something to scoff at either.
5’ — Shane O’Neill goal! Kelyn Rowe sends in a cross after a short corner routine, and O’Neill meets it at the back post and sends it across goal and into the net! 1-0 Sounders
14’ — Nicolas Benezet shoots, he twerks! Will Bruin lays it off inside the area, Benezet beats his man with a touch and finishes from a tight angle! 2-0
18' — Vancouver’s best chance of the game comes from a shot from just outside of the box that clangs off the crossbar, but Seattle’s defense is able to clear it out of danger.
45’ +1 — Some less than impressive defending allows Vancouver to get off a shot that Stefan Frei stops, but they get the rebound and cut it back for an easy finish. 2-1
55’ — Will Bruin regains the two-goal lead! Some excellent play results in a slide rule pass from Fredy Montero that puts Bruin in behind, and he roofs his shot! 3-1
68’ — Abdoulaye Cissoko nearly adds one for Seattle as he meets Rowe’s cross well, but the ‘keeper dives and is able to paw the ball away from goal.
75’ — Vancouver splits the defense and Cristian Dajome gets a 1-v-1 with Frei, but Frei’s kick save preserves the lead.
90’ — Léo Chú adds a fourth! Chú scores his first Sounders goal following a little patience and a great pass from Montero to put the game away. 4-1
The truth about Kelyn Rowe: Kelyn Rowe is not a perfect player. Far from it, honestly. He’s especially struggled, in my opinion, when asked to play as a right wingback in place of Alex Roldan. His defensive instincts have been proven to be lacking, in particular, and at times he’s struggled to make the kind of impact going forward necessary to offset that. Tonight was different, though. Missing the team’s internationals, still without Seattle’s chief chance-creator in Nicolas Lodeiro, Rowe stepped up and filled the void. He was involved in all four goals, put in a good defensive showing, and absolutely terrorized Vancouver’s left side on both ends of the field. This was a reminder that, while it may be asking too much of him to be an every-game contributor, he’s an elite MLS depth piece capable of changing a game when he’s at his best.
Goals, goals, goals: Four consecutive multi-goal games for the Sounders after this one, three straight with three or more goals. The Sounders needed more goals from the non-Raúl Ruidíaz attackers, even more so now with the severity of Ruidíaz’s new injury looming over the squad. Will Bruin picked up yet another goal against Vancouver, as did Nicolas Benezet. Léo Chú got his first goal with the club, and Kelyn Rowe had 3 assists to go along with 4 more key passes. He even had a would-be fourth assist disallowed due to offside. They can’t play Vancouver every week, but even without some of their biggest stars this team is still more than capable of creating and finishing chances. Oh, and Jordan Morris is on his way back.
João Paulo 4 MVP: This wasn’t João Paulo’s flashiest game of all time, and his numbers won’t necessarily jump off the page at you. He had 1 assist, another key pass, and didn’t miss by much on a couple of shots from outside the box. Instead he did what he’s done all season: let the Sounders game flow through him. He led both teams in total touches and passes — 99 and 71, respectively — had 3 tackles, and an outrageous 16 recoveries. João Paulo is the most important player on what is, in my opinion, the best team in the league. JP 4 MVP.
Did you see that?!?
Will Bruin wants to make sure you know that he’s the 10th highest scoring active MLS player.
He said what?!?
‘That was a challenging game. I think the identity of the team is coming into focus. We know how we want to play. If we make small changes they know who they are and how they want to play.’ - schmetzer— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) October 10, 2021
One stat to tell the tale
57.8% — Seattle won 57.8% of duels against Vancouver.
Man of the match