Lumen Field is a tough place for any visiting team, especially the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Whitecaps have not won at Lumen Field, home of the Seattle Sounders since March 19, 2016. Vancouver has lost eight of their last nine matches there.
This game was a big opportunity to move up in the standings and secure a home playoff game. Unfortunately, the winless streak at Lumen Field is still ongoing but the Whitecaps did secure a home playoff game with Saturday night’s 0-0 draw at BC Place.
Into the mouth of hell, the Whitecaps marched, and they came out of it bent but not broken
What we learned
- The Sounders were attacking the Whitecaps box like a swarm of bees. They were trying to turn zero into one. But Vancouver prevented that. This was probably the best Whitecaps defensive performance of the season. No matter what Seattle did, Vancouver survived the onslaught. They were making sure to clear the ball as soon as possible and made some big blocks. Ranko Veselinovic, Tristan Blackmon, Mathias Laborda and later Javain Brown played like it was their last game ever.
- To put that into perspective, Sounders striker Jordan Morris did not have a single shot.
- Yohei Takaoka now has two clean sheets after going six games without one. He looked like the goalkeeper that the Whitecaps had in the first three or four months of the season. The former Yokohama F. Marinos goalkeeper made five saves in the match. Cristian Roldan nearly had his second straight stoppage time winner but Takaoka said: “Access Denied.” That save, his save on Sunusi Ibrahim in the Canadian Championship final and his penalty save on Colorado’s Diego Rubio on April 29 are his best saves as a Whitecap. However, the one on Roldan on Saturday night could very well make the case for number one.
- Roldan, Nicolas Lodeiro and Léo Chú lead the charge for Seattle. Chú in particular made it tough for the Whitecaps down the left flank. He was making life difficult for Laborda in particular who must have thought Chú was the fastest kid alive.
- The Whitecaps attack couldn’t muster anything other than Ryan Gauld hitting the post after displaying exquisite ball control and receiving an excellent cross from Sam Adekugbe. Life is this game of inches and so is soccer. Close but no cigar for The Flying Scotsman.
- Unlike the Sounders midfield, the Whitecaps midfield didn’t get much going. Richie Laryea started the game on the right wing and he was starting the transitions and creating most of the chances. With Gauld with Junior Hoilett at the top to start the game, Pedro Vite was dropping back. Unlike in past games, he didn’t show off his creativity so Alessandro Schöpf came on for Hoilett in the 60th minute. But Schöpf looked poor. In his 30 minutes, Schöpf was dispossessed four times, lost nine duels (the most out of any Whitecap) and won only three out of eleven ground duels. The Austrian usually isn’t noticeable which is often a good thing because he plays a quiet game. But he was noticeable for the wrong reasons against the Sounders
Stat of the match
According to FotMob, Tristan Blackmon had nine clearances. That was the most out of anyone on the pitch.
What was said
“They were throwing everything at us,” said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini on the Sounders. “I think the Sounders are probably the best team the entire season.”
“At the end, we defended like lions,” he said. “It was a masterclass by everyone…We were fantastic. When everyone does so well, it is easier for the goalkeeper to help you and in the end, Yohei made a fantastic save.”
“We expected a tough game,” said Veselinovic. “We were talking in the locker room that the second half was going to be harder and we knew what to expect. We were expecting counterattacks [and] some chances…But in the last 20 minutes, we were more and more down but I think we did good in the end to hold 11 players tight and defend our goal.”
Veselinovic was asked about Takaoka and his save at the end.
“Yohei was unbelievable today,” he said. “I’m really happy for him because that means he can get more confidence like [the] whole team. He’s an outstanding guy, he means a lot to us, he’s helping us a lot and we need him as better as he can be in these last few games.”
Takaoka reflected on his first season in MLS so far. He is still hungry for the big dish.
“My target is winning the MLS Cup,” he said. “This was my target when I came here, so nothing changed. We have a chance to win the trophy. It’s going to be tough games. But we are a very good team and a good squad, I believe we can make it.”
Best of Twitter
Rating on dive: yellow card out of ten
There needs to be more yellow cards for simulation in soccer. People who don’t like the sport point to diving as a reason why and getting booked for diving would cut it down.
Cute not accepted
Other than the Gauld chance, this sums up the Whitecaps attack on the night. There was a counterattack near the end of the match and even that looked too cute.
Look out, here’s Ruam!
With that hit on Roldan in the second half, the Vancouver Canucks found a much-needed right-handed defenceman. But in all seriousness, I’m not sure how Gauld didn’t get a foul there. Guess he used his get-out-of-the-referee’s pocket card.
Takaoka looked shaky in the last few weeks. However, in the last two games, he has redeemed himself. The Whitecaps hope that the two clean sheets will give Takaoka confidence heading into Decision Day and into the playoffs. A team with a confident goalkeeper in the playoffs is a force to be reckoned with.
The Whitecaps end the night fifth in the Western Conference with 47 points. They are a point behind the Houston Dynamo and a point ahead of Real Salt Lake. RSL has a game in hand.
For the Whitecaps to finish in the top four, they need to beat LAFC on Decision Day and need Houston to lose or draw to the Portland Timbers.
The international break is next week so Decision Day is on Saturday, October 21. After a much deserved break, the Whitecaps play LAFC at BC Place at 6:00 p.m. Pacific.
It should be a wild finish.