This year has been about new experiences for the Seattle Sounders, including the first-ever Concacaf Champions League title. After Saturday night’s 2-1 defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps, they’re about to add another one to the list.
Playing out the string.
While they have not been eliminated — thanks, in part, to some favorable results elsewhere — the loss dealt a crippling blow to their already tenuous playoff hopes. With only three games left in the rest of the season and as many teams to leapfrog, the Sounders will have to rely on some hard-to-imagine results to slide into the 7th slot in the West.
After the match, the Sounders were left to talk about mathematical chances of making the playoff, which is rarely a place you want to be this late in the season. And even with the myriad chances given to the Sounders, when a marker needed to be laid down, the Sounders have been unable to rise to the occasion.
And time, it seems, has just about run out.
The Sounders will have about 10 days to think about where they go from here before hosting FC Cincinnati, likely incredibly short-handed. A failure to win there will probably move their playoff chances from theoretical to non-existent and if that happens, it will be another new experience for the Sounders to deal with.
Possession, no purpose
It’s a well-worn cliche in soccer: Possession is only valuable if it’s with a purpose. It might be a tired saying, but the Sounders’ performance Saturday night would be Exhibit A in the dictionary. Outpossessing the Whitecaps by a 2:1 margin, the Sounders could only manage a handful of shots — none on goal — in the first half. Things got better in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, but when the goal didn’t come, the Sounders weren’t able to do much until the dying moments of the match, by which point it was too late.
Same Sounders story
Similar to the Sounders struggling in attack, the story was much the same in defense: Lapses in concentration costing the Sounders dearly. Though the Whitecaps were content to cede possession to a mostly hapless Sounders attack, when Vancouver had their opportunities, they were able to finish ruthlessly. The first goal was caused by the Sounders finding themselves out of position and unable to get the ball off the Whitecaps attackers, while Julian Gressel’s strike deserves plenty of credit, the Sounders failed to mark or close him out after a headed clearance.
Montero and Bruin give the Sounders some hope
Credit is due to the Sounders fighting until the end and there is never any doubt about their effort. Much of that could be credited to Fredy Montero and Will Bruin, the latter giving the Sounders a chance with a late headed goal off a peach of a pass from the former. Much of the improvement in the Sounders’ attack — such that it was — could also be credited to Montero being inserted at halftime and giving the Sounders a more dangerous look. It was unfortunate, then, that the Sounders couldn’t find the early second-half goal to truly put the Whitecaps under pressure.
The loss to Vancouver not only damaged the Sounders’ playoff chances beyond any likely chance of repair, it also relegated them to a last-place finish in the Cascadia Cup standings for the first time since 2016. It also leaves the Sounders behind both their Cascadia cousins in the MLS Western Conference standings, which if it finishes that way would be the first time since 2015. While the Sounders have a big prize — perhaps the biggest prize — on the season, there have been more than enough blows to bring the Sounders well off that perch.
Decision Day comes early for the Sounders
The price of the Champions League victory continues to be exacted on the Sounders courtesy of a rescheduled matchup against FC Cincinnati. The match, originally scheduled to be played April 9, was rescheduled in the wake of the Sounders' run to the title. With the game set to be played at the tail end of the international break, the Sounders will be without a handful of starters against a much-improved FCC side looking to solidify their playoff positioning. Even should the Sounders get Raul Ruidiaz back, they’re going to have to rely on a makeshift lineup to delay what appears to be inevitable.