Saturday night in Seattle, the Vancouver Whitecaps played out a 0-0 draw with the Seattle Sounders at Lumen Field. While it was an imperfect performance for Vancouver, securing points in a hostile environment where they’ve had very little success historically is still admirable in many regards.
Contextually, the Whitecaps getting themselves to the international break after a heavy schedule, without Andres Cubas, and still with a chance at a top-four spot, has to be viewed as a job well done. Added to this, Vancouver has picked a very good time to lock things down defensively, keeping their second clean sheet in a row.
With that said, on to the player grades:
Yohei Takaoka – 7.5
The second strong match in a row for Takaoka. He made 5 saves, with perhaps his most important coming right at the death, as he pawed away a headed effort from Cristian Roldan at the near post. His distribution and work on crosses is still not amazing right now, but the shot-stopping is back.
Ranko Veselinovic – 7.5
The hub of the defensive line has to take some credit for two matches without a goal conceded, as Vancouver kept Seattle to the outside, except for a few moments in the final stages. He had 5 clearances and 3 blocked shots in this match.
Tristan Blackmon – 6.5
Blackmon was busy in this one with 8 clearances. He did have one sketchy moment at the back with Takaoka, but otherwise, he was pretty low-event. His long-range passing, in part because of the way Seattle had set up, was not very good.
Mathias Laborda – 6.5
There’s not a ton to say about the Uruguayan, but I think that’s a sign of progress. Both Laborda and Brown have looked good over the past couple of weeks.
Sebastian Berhalter – 6.5
While not remarkable, Berhalter did enough to effectively clog up the midfield, making it difficult for Seattle to progress into the final third with much danger. I might be coming around on the idea of Berhalter playing in a wide role more often, as he doesn’t show off his attacking traits as much in this position.
Richie Laryea – 6.5
The Canadian made a nice pass to Hoilett which according to xG was Vancouver’s best opportunity of the night. Other than that, Laryea was less active on the ball than normal, with a lot of possession working down the other side of the pitch.
Sam Adekugbe – 7.0
Adekugbe built on some good substitute showings with a strong start in Seattle. The Whitecaps looked positive when he was on the ball, and he seemed more patient playing it back and forth in the buildup. He also played a great cross into Ryan Gauld for Vancouver’s second-best opportunity of the evening, and he was stuck in defensively with 3 clearances and an interception.
Pedro Vite – 6.0
A quiet night for Vite where he was often left on his own in the midfield and struggled to break through Seattle’s double pivot. I found it very weird that Schopf would start at home against St. Louis and Vite would start on the road in Seattle. Given their play styles and the type of match expected, this seems like the opposite of what you would want. Anyhow, I digress.
Junior Hoilett – 6.5
A better start for Vancouver’s utility attacker with some notably bright moments, even if he did miss (by a wide margin) Vancouver’s best look of the night. He had a better connection with Gauld and White which was encouraging, but tactically I wonder if it made that much sense, especially after about the 25th minute when Seattle made some adjustments.
Ryan Gauld – 7.0
Seattle is the West’s best defensive team, and they did a decent job limiting Gauld’s looks. In particular, they really isolated Brian White as much as they could, preventing the patented White-Gauld hookup. Nonetheless, Gauld almost scored when he struck the outside of the post in the 61st, and he was still a menace off the ball.
Brian White – 6.5
This is two matches in succession now where opposing centrebacks have done a good job denying White from getting looks in holdup play, dominating the aerial battle. I think this will be used as the blueprint for how teams try to stop Vancouver in the playoffs, provided they have the physical centrebacks to get the job done.
Substitutes – 6.0
Vancouver’s level really dropped off when they made changes, and from there on, they offered little threat in front of Seattle’s goal. Alessandro Schopf, perhaps disproving my earlier suggestion that this was a better matchup for him than Vite, looked very poor, going in the book early, and losing a number of 50/50’s (he won 3 of 11 ground duels). I will say I think Schopf would have suited the pace of the early proceedings, but it worked less and less as Seattle pushed for a winning goal. Javain Brown, Ryan Raposo, and Ali Ahmed were decent, but the sample size was small as Vancouver held on for the single point.
Vanni Sartini – 6.5
While I have some minor tactical quibbles, particularly the usage of Vite and Hoilett, I think Sartini did enough to set Vancouver up for success in this match. They were disciplined in their shape and didn’t give away much. They also created two reasonable scoring chances. Conceivably, given these looks, they could have walked away with all three points. Going into an environment like Seattle, at the end of a very hectic series of matches, having a decent shot at three points is all you can really ask for. By securing a point, Vancouver has kept their top four hopes alive as they head towards decision day.
Those were my thoughts on the match, let me know your in the comments, as always!