After two disappointing losses to start the season, where Vancouver was showing little resemblance to last season's defensive form, the Whitecaps got exactly what they needed in an early season Cascadia Cup win away to Seattle, walking out of SoDo with a 2-1 victory.
With the back line troubles on full display after losses to Montreal Impact and Sporting Kansas City, Carl Robinson drew Fraser Aird back in to the starting lineup in place of the suspended Jordan Smith, while Christian Bolaños, fresh off his own suspension, made it back into the starting eleven in place of Deybi Flores.
However, the most noticeable change to the Whitecaps lineup was the inclusion of Blas Perez, in place of Cristian Techera and now providing Octavio Rivero with an attack partner and target man in a 4-4-2 formation.
However, this change did not affect the regular game plan of keeping patient off the ball and moving forward with a strong counterattack. Seattle were content to move the ball around their back line for the first nine minutes as the Whitecaps would sit and wait, waiting to gain possession of the ball and make the most of it.
And that they did in the 9' minute: off a David Ousted clearance, Perez played a through ball to Bolaños who was seemingly brought down inside the penalty area by Joevin Jones, much to the dismay. Nevertheless, referee Mark Geiger did not hesitate whatsoever in pointing to the penalty spot, and Pedro Morales sent Stefan Frei the wrong way for the opening goal.
The tempo quickly settled back into Seattle being content with maintaining possession and moving the ball up the sidelines, while Vancouver remained calm and sunk in, patiently waiting until an opportunity presented itself.
This patience was in exemplary in how the back line of Jordan Harvey, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, and Fraser Aird all working in unison, with Harvey and Aird closing down the wings while Waston and Parker won a number of balls lofted across the box.
Neither goalie was truly troubled, though Ousted did have to look alive on a 22' minute Nelson Valdez header that saw both Ousted and Jordan Morris crashing into the post.
The second half carried forward with the same plot until the 51' minute, when Clint Dempsey was able to blitz down the inside left side, drawing a foul and yellow card for Morales. From there, Andreas Ivanschitz admittedly worked some magic:
Ain't no party like a direct free kick goal party. #SEAvVAN https://t.co/FUVTSrevhy— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 20, 2016
Can't really do much about that.
And again, each team fell back to their respective patterns: Seattle down the sideline; Vancouver mounting a counterattack. This carried on for another solid twenty minutes, with each team finding a common end result: not finding a productive touch in the final third, which often resulted in a shot, cross, or header directed straight at the keeper.
This all changed in the 73' when, on an over the top ball from Morales, Perez looked to have drawn contact from Chad Marshall before the defender could get a foot on the ball, and again Geiger wasted no time pointing to the penalty spot. Frei guessed correctly this time, but could only get his fingertips to the ball as Morales bagged his brace and third PK goal in two games.
Shortly after the goal, Andrew Jacobson made his Whitecaps debut, coming in for Rivero and having to stare down minimal drama over the remaining fifteen minutes.
The only true danger came when the Sounders attack finally broke down the Vancouver defense, after an Ozzie Alonso through ball and Joevin Jones cutback resulted in Dempsey sliding a shot just inches wide of the far post.
From there on out, there was nothing terribly troubling to concern the Whitecaps, as they were able to ride out the 2-1 victory. I'm absolutely certain there will be calls for Mark Geiger's head from the Seattle faithful for the first, if not both, penalties, but after a tough start to the season Vancouver seems to have found a defensive groove and can hopefully carry the success forward into next week's home match with Houston Dynamo.