The Vancouver Whitecaps managed to grind out a 0-0 draw on the road against the Seattle Sounders. The ‘Caps were perhaps a little lucky but Seattle didn’t do a whole lot to show they definitively deserved to win the game.
Vancouver fielded quite an aggressive lineup with Pedro Vite and Sebastian Berhalter in a double pivot and Junior Hoilett pushed forward into a #10 role. With this bold XI you probably wouldn’t expect a stodgy midfield stalemate but that was what we got. To their credit, the Vite and Berhalter double pivot did not look particularly exposed. But the ‘Caps had trouble breaking Seattle down. A major factor, in my view, was the physicality of Seattle’s backline. Brian White and Ryan Gauld don’t necessarily win a ton of flick ons but they are good at putting centre-backs under enough pressure that they can’t get the ball fully clear and then mopping up second balls. But against the titans of Jackson Ragen and Yeimar Andrade, this sort of situation almost never presented itself. One area the Whitecaps might have found some joy in is isolating quicker players against those two. One of the two good chances Vancouver created was when Richie Laryea left the slow-footed Ragen in his dust and cut the ball back to Hoilett who scuffed his shot. But this sort of situation also did not present itself very often thanks to the pace of Nouhou, who covered for Ragen very effectively.
Seattle had a lot more chances in the match but struggled to create high-danger chances. The Whitecaps were very good at getting numbers behind the ball and limiting Seattle to long-range shots, headers, and shots from difficult angles. Seattle put in a lot of crosses, which is normally not a good thing for Vancouver. But Seattle’s lack of a powerful #9 meant Vancouver was mostly able to deal with things. On the occasions when Vancouver was not able to keep Seattle at bay, Yohei Takaoka was very solid. That was nice to see after he had a few rough games in a row. Leo Chu gave Vancouver a lot of trouble, it seems like he turns into Sadio Mane every time he plays the Whitecaps.
If I had one criticism, I would have liked to see the Whitecaps bring on some pace earlier in the game. I know Brian White has been incredible this season but this was not his type of game. I think Levonte Johnson, Simon Becher, or Ali Ahmed a bit earlier could have made a difference. Instead, Vanni Sartini opted to bring in Alessandro Schopf to try and get more bodies in the midfield. I see the vision with Schopf, I really do. Everybody wants to see the Cubas-Ahmed-Vite midfield. But I do understand why you wouldn’t want your midfield three to all be little guys who give the ball away a lot, even if it would be exciting. But, my god, Schopf is frustrating. He moves so slowly and he always waits just a little bit too often before making a decision. I think Schopf is probably the weakest link for the ‘Caps at the moment. He’s quite a bit better than some previous weak links but if you’re looking for ways to put this team over the top, that’s probably the first spot I would be looking to upgrade.
To finish the season the ‘Caps will take on LAFC at home. A tough opponent but home-field advantage and having a little more to play for ought to give the ‘Caps a slight edge. As I learned literally today, the first round of the MLS playoffs is a best of three and then everything after that is single elimination. As it stands the Whitecaps would be playing a best of three against Houston which sounds like an absolute nightmare from a travel point of view. Of the clubs vying for a top-4 spot, Vancouver has by far the toughest decision-day opponent but all of RSL, Houston, and Seattle will be on the road. So there’s still a reasonable chance Vancouver can get it over the line.