Saturday night in Seattle, the Vancouver Whitecaps will take on the Sounders for what will be Vancouver’s final road match of the 2023 regular season. While both teams have their playoff future secured, and the Cascadia Cup has already been decided, there is still plenty up for grabs in this matchup.
If my research is correct, March of 2016 is the last time Vancouver secured all three points in Seattle, so they have some history to overcome. Equally, both teams still have seeding on the line with two games left in the regular season. Seattle currently sits 2nd in the West on 49 points, one point ahead of LAFC in solo 3rd. The Whitecaps are 5th in the West on 46 points, tied with RSL who is 4th because of wins, as well as a match in hand, and both are one point ahead of the Houston Dynamo. Needless to say, a lot can change in these next two weeks. Conceivably, the Whitecaps can still finish anywhere from 2nd to 9th in the West – Dallas is on 9th on 41 points, but with a match in hand.
Midweek, Seattle enjoyed a dramatic last minute match-winner against the LA Galaxy courtesy of Cristian Roldan. The late win put an emphatic flourish on the team’s sparkling form – as they are undefeated in their last 7 matches, having only conceded more than a single goal once during that run.
Alex Roldan ➡️ Josh Atencio ➡️ Cristian Roldan
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) October 6, 2023
Without a doubt, the standout feature of Seattle’s game is their defending. They’ve conceded just 32 goals this season, for a very satisfying 1.00 goals against per match. One might understandably assume that Seattle has been very lucky to have such a good defensive record, but according to the xG gods, if anything, Seattle has been slightly unlucky, as they have allowed just 31.3 xGa. Veteran keeper Stefan Frei, and a backline that has changed very little from year to year (other than the emergence of Jackson Ragen), help explain this success.
JACKSON 💪 RAGEN 💪 pic.twitter.com/lrwWqlJjhq
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) October 1, 2023
While Seattle is not a dominant attacking powerhouse, especially when they’ve been without Jordan Morris for portions of the season, they are a streaky scoring team that can hurt you in many different ways, as Vancouver discovered when Leo Chu had a dominant performance at BC Place in a 3-2 win back on July 8th. The aforementioned Morris leads Seattle with 11 goals, while Leo Chu has 5 goals and 7 assists.
For Vancouver, they will likely have to face Seattle without their ever-present defensive midfielder Andres Cubas. The Paraguayan had to be removed from Wednesday’s match, a 3-0 win over St. Louis, with a shoulder injury, and regardless of the long-term time frame, it would not make much sense to play him with such a quick turnaround. In his stead, Sebastian Berhalter, who has served admirably as Cubas’ understudy on several occasions this season, will look to make his mark. The young American scored a wonderful goal from distance midweek, but will presumably be more occupied with stifling the likes of Albert Rusnak and Cristian Roldan come Saturday night.
Elsewhere, the newcomer Canadians on the roster are gradually making their mark, as Richie Laryea scored his first Whitecaps goal on Wednesday, while Sam Adekugbe could be primed to start again after two appearances off the bench during the last two fixtures. In the midfield, Ali Ahmed was immense on Wednesday night, while Pedro Vite will look to earn a start after coming off the bench and showing promise midweek. Javain Brown continues to be consistent enough at the back, so I would presume he will hold down the third centreback spot.
It almost goes without saying, but this is a huge task to go to Seattle looking for points. Vancouver would probably prefer if Seattle had nothing to play for at this point, but given the current situation, they should be leaving everything out on the pitch Saturday night. While I can’t predict a Vancouver Whitecaps win, I will back the Blue and White to secure a 1-1 draw at Lumen Field. I get the sense Vancouver will set up quite cautiously for this match, but with the current form of Brian White and Ryan Gauld, I can’t see those two being held scoreless, even in the toughest of environments.