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Three questions with AFTN

Can the Sounders take over the Cascadia Cup? It would merely mean another big win over a Canadian side that isn't good right now.

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3 min read

Tonight’s match is the 50th Anniversary Heritage match (7:39 pm PDT kick at Lumen Field and on MLS Season Pass), another rivalry week. More importantly, it’s a winnable game. The preferred XI for Brian Schmetzer is fairly rested, at least those that are healthy are rested.

In their past four games the Vancouver Whitecaps are 0-2-2. Maybe the relatively easy win over Seattle made them complacent. Vanni Sartini is entering his first stretch of double-game weeks, and hasn't really rotated for MLS games, except in the case of injury (Sam Adekugbe and Damir Kreilach are out) and now red card (Bjorn Utvik is suspended tonight).

Seattle isn’t good again. They are middle-of-the-road over the past 5-7 games. Middle of the road and at home in MLS should be a win, especially against a more strained side that’s struggling.

Then again, it’s 2024 and the Sounders haven’t exhibited that they’re ready to compete. They’ll need to make up ground in the Cascadia Cup to signal to the league that they’re back.

Answering Three Questions for Away From The Numbers is Michael.

SaH: It’s the most packed part of the schedule. How is Sartini managing squad rotation heading into this match?

AFTN: Some injuries and now a suspension have dictated some of the rotation but it’s gone pretty much as planned. Unfortunately the rotation has shown a lack of depth in certain areas, especially the midfield, and the over reliance on the likes of Gauld and White.

Since beating Seattle Gauld and White have started every match, including the midweek loss at elevation to the Colorado Rapids. In the past week the two have played 180 minutes (Gauld) and 170 minutes (White). White has a single goal in those four games. Vancouver also played down a man for the second half of the Rapids loss.

SaH: Is the Vancouver winless streak about a deficiency or is it merely something that's happened?

AFTN: Primarily it’s been due to the inability to bury their chances. They dominated against Austin but couldn’t score and the first half against Colorado was the same. Those were two games they should and could have won. They were simply outplayed against a much better LAFC side in between those two matches.

Over those four games (0-2-2, -4) the Whitecaps lost the xG contest -4.8 with them winning the xG against Austin. Though the Rapids were better they also had 45 minutes up a man. Their expected goals scored was just over three. They scored only one goal.

SaH: The Seattle Sounders are fairly poor at scoring goals. Besides playing with 11 men, what can they do to create troubles for the Whitecaps defense?

AFTN: Sartini’s back three and zonal marking leaves the space on the wings ripe for long balls into them and attacking it with pace. LAFC and Bouanga put in a masterclass of punishing this. Low to mid height crosses in from the wings also seem to cause big issues for Takaoka.

Vancouver has the 13th worst xGA but are strong in actual goals, with the 23rd worst (which means they are good). The shots they give up are frequently from angles. Only six teams allow fewer shots from central positions.

There’s no reverse, but there were three questions with Soccer Talk Vancouver just a month ago.

AFTN has recaps of previous matches and more on their Whitecaps section as they cover all things BC soccer.