After going down a goal early, and down a man with half an hour to play, the Vancouver Whitecaps did well to fight back and equalize against Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders in a 1-1 draw at BC Place. The Sounders were far and away the aggressors on the night, but some timely substitutions by the Whitecaps made for an exciting finish to a match against a strong Seattle side.
David Ousted - A
There’s no question as to who Man of the Match was for the Whitecaps. Ousted came up very big on multiple occasions, and even on simpler saves he did well to never give up a rebound on which Seattle could capitalize. Sure, he needed the help of the crossbar once, but Ousted did as well as anyone could hope for a keeper who stares down a penalty AND sees his team reduced to ten men.
Sheanon Williams/Jordan Harvey - D+/C-
Both players started well by staying compact and uniform with their centerbacks, and each made a number of great tackles: Williams had a fantastic stand-up of Nicolas Lodeiro in the 13th minute, while Harvey had a great sliding tackle of his own, again on Lodeiro, in the 60th.
But most forays up field for either player did not work out well. Harvey was bailed out at least once by Waston, while Williams ultimately conceded the PK on a bad tackle, despite doing well to get back in position after some botched passing (Jacobson, I believe?).
The pressing of the outside fullbacks felt like a forced game plan, as if Carl Robinson thought he was playing a compact Houston Dynamo-side again. Instead, his fullbacks were given reign to run the pitch, and were thwarted quite often.
Kendall Waston/Tim Parker - C+/B
Waston and Parker were unwavering pillars throughout the night. Waston, with 9 clearances and 3 interceptions, was great in the air and blocking crosses, and while nearly notching a goal of his own. Though he takes a slight dent to his grade because of the foul & yellow card conceded at a dangerous spot for a free kick, but Waston ultimately had a very strong night. Meanwhile with 6 clearances and 4 recoveries, Parker looked nearly immovable on the ball. It’s unfortunate the team as a whole could not build on the stability generated by these two.
Tony Tchani - F
To his credit, I thought Tchani started well. His passing out of the defensive end was generally calm, as nothing felt really forced... but this lasted about fifteen minutes, after which nearly every pass felt needlessly dangerous. And then the cards came.
I suppose Tchani’s second yellow card could be considered tactical, but how tactical is it to foul a man on a breakout when you’re already sitting on a yellow card? Let alone when you draw the foul along the sideline, as opposed to the center of the pitch? Or just after the play is starting to go in your team’s favor?
But it wasn’t tactical, at all. It was sloppy, just like his first yellow. He didn’t cost the team a result, but definitely made it harder to achieve one.
Andrew Jacobson - C-
Barely felt him on the pitch, which could be a good thing when compared to Tchani’s eventful night. Had a couple of good long, low passes, and did well defensively at times, though I believe it was his poor possession that started the chain of events leading to the PK. Otherwise, a somewhat quiet night leading up to his substitution.
Yordy Reyna - C+
My biggest critique from last night? Reyna was at a huge size disadvantage whenever he had Chad Marshall, Tony Alfaro, or Gustav Svensson on his back, as it proved to be difficult for Reyna to take a ball cleanly and make plays. Nevertheless, he was smart with the ball when it was possessed, often opting to hold and make smart back passes rather than force himself into 1v1 situations, though he was lucky to have his poor deflection near center in the 11th minute amount to nothing at the Vancouver endline.
Christian Bolanos/Cristian Techera - C/C-
Both Bolanos and Techera had nights similar to Jacobson’s, where they were more reactive than active.
Bolanos was a necessarily calm presence on the ball, and looked much more effective once he moved to the center of the pitch following the 56th minute substitutions, but his free kicks and crosses were handled far too easily, either by the heads of the centerbacks or a leaping Stefan Frei, save for the one that squirted out to Techera, who did well to find the head of Waston.
But, like Bolanos, most crosses of Techera’s were placed too closely to the net. Otherwise, Techera’s night was spent one of three ways: not getting proper service on passes from the back; when he was getting passes, Seattle’s defense closed him down quickly; or, he would move up-field far too quickly in situations that would result in snuffed-out counterattacks. In other words: he was creating too much space between himself and his defense far too quickly.
Fredy Montero - B
At times, it felt like Montero was alone in applying high-pressure to Seattle’s defense. Reyna would jump in to assist, but often it was solely up to Montero to force mistakes out of the Sounders. He was denied on a great effort from distance following the gift handed to him by Frei in the 39th minute, and was clinical in his right place/right time equalizer, off Alphonso Davies’ hard work, in the 64th, but was once again a great presence (and nuisance) when facing his former club.
Lastly, a huge heap of praise needs to be given to all three substitutes, Alphonso Davies, Bernie Ibini, and Russell Teibert.
With the inclusion of Davies and Ibini in the 56th minute, the Whitecaps were finally showing signs of life, with this newfound invigoration stemming from the strength and pace of these two wingers. Teibert’s inclusion brought the same kind of energy, only for a defense forced to weather an attack while down a player.
These changes were the right move at the right time, but I felt as though Davies and Ibini should have started (possibly in a 4-1-4-1). Their presence on either flank would have put constant pressure on two outside fullbacks, Nouhou Tolo and Kelvin Leerdam, who are relatively green to the MLS (we’ll call it an Aird-ism).
Instead, Robinson (who gets a C- for the match) crafted a lineup and formation that, while certainly effective against Houston on Saturday, initially had little chance against a Seattle side with a completely different set of strengths and weaknesses.
Am I way off base with this thought? Let me have it in the comments!