SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps played to a frustrating and oddly flat 0-0 draw on Saturday night at Lumen Field. What seemed likely to be a game with goals galore based on Vancouver’s season up to this point, proved much less than the expectations thanks to a stifling Seattle defense and a sweaty Seattle attack.
The first half was particularly quiet. For 45 minutes the game was almost entirely played between the two 18s with occasional forays into the area. Seattle and Vancouver combined for a total of six shots. Two of the best moments of the half came in a three-minute span early on, both involving Leo Chu dribbling into the final third and attempting to set up Jordan Morris for the goal. Unfortunately on both occasions Morris failed to get a telling touch, knocking the ball out of bounds in one instance and missing the ball in the other.
In the second half Seattle dialed up the pressure, using a counter-press that we haven’t seen much since early in the season to pin the Whitecaps back and generate a total of 15 shots. Vancouver goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka was forced to make four saves with a couple of particularly impressive ones, most notably late in stoppage time when Cristian Roldan nearly replicated his late game magic with a header that the GK did really well to get down and save. In the end poor finishing and indecision in the final third meant Seattle had to settle for a single point in their final home game of the regular season. They hit the road to face St. Louis CITY SC in two weeks to close out the season needing a result to control their own postseason destiny.
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5’ – Josh Atencio initially loses the ball in Vancouver’s area after a pass in from João Paulo, but then picks the defender’s pocket and sends a ball across goal that’s cleared out for a throw-in.
13’ – Léo Chú makes a beautiful run down the left wing and into the box and attempts to drop the ball back for Jordan Morris, but Morris’s touch sends the ball out of bounds.
16’ – Chú attempts to find Morris again after a great ball from Atencio, but Morris can’t get a touch on the ball and it runs through the area without posing much threat.
31’ – Morris attempts to get a ball through traffic and it bounces out to Chú who hits a shot on target, but Whitecaps goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka gathers it.
48’ – Nico Lodeiro carries the ball into the Vancouver area and finds Chú on a cutback, but Chú’s first-time effort is overcooked.
62’ – After a couple of wasteful trips downfield for the Sounders, Gauld nearly punishes them with a clear look that he puts off the outside of the bar.
71’ – Cristian Roldan goes close, pulling up from the top of the box, but his shot whizzes over the crossbar for a goal kick.
79’ – Albert Rusnák nearly applies the finish on a slick play, but Takaoka saves the close range shot. Cristian Roldan picks up the rebound, but his shot is blocked by a defender.
90’ +2 – After possession is recycled off of a free kick, Heber receives a ball in the area from Rusnak and fires a shot on the turn that goes just wide of the goal.
90’ +4 – Reed Baker-Whiting nearly sets up a goal for Cristian Roldan, but Takaoka makes a diving save to put it out for a corner.
Missed opportunities and meat grinder results: This season has been a weird one, and this result feels a little like the season in microcosm. With a chance to solidify their grip on homefield advantage in the first round of the playoffs, Seattle were pretty wasteful. They kept a Vancouver side that’s been very productive in attack particularly quiet, allowing only four shots in total with Brian White – who has 15 goals this season – being limited to a single shot, that’s nothing to turn your nose up at. The flip side of that is that Vancouver’s got one of the leakiest backlines among teams in playoff position and for all of Seattle’s 17 shots they only generated 1.01 xG, despite 10 of those shots coming from inside the box. The team that hasn’t dropped below fourth place this season finds themselves likely needing a result on the road against the West’s top team St. Louis CITY SC to keep that true. Yohei Takaoka made some quality saves to preserve the shutout, but in some of Seattle’s most dangerous moments he didn’t even have to. They’ve got time and opportunities to sort things out and get rolling for the playoffs – the best of three format in the playoffs makes that especially true – but this was a serious missed chance.
Sweet Stefan Frei: Stefan Frei didn’t have much to do in this game as he recorded his 13th clean sheet of the season, tying his own club record for most in a season set back in 2017. He has a chance to set the record in a couple of weeks when the Sounders face St. Louis in a matchup with the player he thinks is the best GK in the league, Roman Bürki – he also made a case for Bürki to win MLS MVP in the press conference. It’s a testament to Frei’s ability as well as his maturity and veteran savvy that in a season when plenty questioned whether he still had the tools in his bag that have made him a fan favorite in Seattle, he has a chance to put up one of if not his best statistical season with a career-best 0.93 Goals Allowed/90 with one regular season game left to be played. With him in net, Seattle’s future is still in good hands.
The Atencio Agenda continues: Another Josh Atencio start, another excellent Josh Atencio performance. Against Vancouver, Atencio was second behind only Yeimar for duels won – Yeimar won 10 of 14 duels, going 2/4 on ground duels and 8/10 in the air – winning 7/8 on the ground and adding one of two aerial duels. He also had nine recoveries and nine passes into the final third as he proved to be a crucial piece of Seattle’s counter-press, which effectively locked Vancouver in their own half for long stretches throughout the game. That work in midfield was a major factor in the team’s ability to limit the Whitecaps attack to only four total shots. After the game Frei credited Atencio’s strength and calmness on the ball for providing his teammates with a sense of comfort with him on the field. The choice between Atencio and Obed Vargas is hardly clear-cut for Brian Schmetzer and the staff, but it’s the good kind of difficult choice each game at this point.
Did you see that?!?
In what could be Nico Lodeiro’s final regular season home game with the club, he received a fitting tribute.
He said what?!?
One stat to tell the tale
21 – Joao Paulo made 21 passes into the final third, an absurd 29.5% of all of his passes for the night.