Where: CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wash.
When: Nov. 2, 2017 – 10:30 pm ET, 7:30 PT
How to watch: FS1, FOX Deportes (USA) | TSN5, TVAS (CAN)
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Assistant Referees: Eduardo Mariscal (near side), Adam Garner (far side)
4th Official: Hilario Grajeda
Video Assistant Referee (VAR): Drew Fischer
36 matches and the Whitecaps’ season all comes down to Thursday’s clash in Seattle against the defending champion Sounders. With a 0-0 first leg, there is everything to play for at CenturyLink Field, as the two sides fight out for the first spot in the Western Conference finals.
Vancouver’s strategy drew some raised eyebrows, as they pushed to avoid conceding an away goal and opted against pressing forward to grab an aggregate lead heading into the away fixture. Given the Caps’ 3-0 road loss to Seattle last month, this might seem foolish. But that Whitecaps’ team was both worn down from a congested fixture schedule, as well as missing Cristian Techera for much of the match. Which Caps’ team shows up, the one that shipped three goals to Seattle without a whimper shows or the side that thumped San Jose 5-0, remains to be seen.
Whether that side will be a first-choice one on Thursday is also up in the air. After both Techera and Yordy Reyna did not start the first leg in Vancouver because of knocks, Carl Robinson made it sound like the two key cogs in the Caps’ machine will not be fit for Thursday. But given the importance of the match, it also possible that Robbo reverts course and tosses one, or both, of them into the starting XI.
Seattle will return Clint Dempsey, who missed the first leg due to suspension, but the Caps’ are going up against a banged up Sounders side, who will be without two key players in Jordan Morris and Brad Evans. Ozzie Alonso and Gustav Svensson, who both came off the bench in the first leg, are questionable to start for Seattle.
Because of the scoreless stalemate in the first leg, Vancouver advances with a win or a tie, as long as they score at least one goal. This means the Caps will be looking to do what they have done time and time again--smash and grab a goal, then drop back and park the bus. Given Vancouver’s success off set pieces and Seattle’s difficulties containing counter attacks, it is likely the away side will have chances to snag the one goal they need to go through. While not the prettiest (or lowest risk) strategy, it could prove effective tomorrow.
The Caps in turn will have to contain Kelvin Leerdam and Nouhou Tolo, both of whom were effective at swinging in crosses and creating chances in the first leg. Seattle is a dangerous counter attacking team in their own right and the Caps’ will have to be careful that, in their own efforts to secure an away goal, they don’t leave themselves open to a counter orchestrated by Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro or Joevin Jones.