The Whitecaps fell 2-1 to their Cascadia rival Seattle Sounders on Saturday night. The 3 points the Sounders take home allow them to clinch the 2018 Cascadia Cup, and to leapfrog the Timbres for 5th in the west. For the Caps, the loss means they’re now 4 points out of the playoff race, with an uphill battle all the way to the finish line.
On to the match itself. The Caps played a strong match for the bulk of this game. They badly out-chanced their opponent and had more possession than Seattle. This however did not translate into results, as the Caps just weren’t good enough in front of goal. They had an astounding 21 shots and only hit the net 5 times. Nico Mezquida and Kei Kamara accounted for 14 of those attempts (7 shots apiece) and only hit the net three times. Though both were in on the lone Caps marker.
The Sounders for their part were every bit the opportunist. They took Robbo-ball and shoved it right back down the Whitecaps throats with impressive precision. The first goal came in the twentieth minute. It started with a counter the Sounders took wide down the left flank. They neatly switched the ball along the top of the box to Christian Roldan who played through to the overlapping Kelvin Leerdam. He promptly sliced the ball in to the top of the 6 yard box where Raul Ruidiaz beat Kendall Waston to the ball and the away side was off to the races 1-0. The second goal came in the forty-second minute on a seemingly harmless Seattle clearance up the right flank. Brett Levis, facing his keeper, played a picture perfect through ball to Raul Ruidiaz who calmly walked around Stefan Marinovic and buried his second of the match. There was no real chance for the Kiwi on either goal.
At 0-2 Whitecaps nation was in despair until, in first half stoppage time, the Caps were awarded a corner to the left of the Seattle goal. Nicolas Mezquida sent a perfect outswinging ball to the front post which found Kei Kamara’s head and the Caps were within one at half time. The header itself was sublime, Kei bounced up then ducked under Mezquida’s cross and directed the ball to the opposite corner.
The Second Half continued on much the same terms as the first. The Caps controlling the ball and coming forward, the Sounders parrying when they could. The Caps threatened early in the second half; in the 54th minute Kei Kamara put one off the inside of the post and In the 62nd Nico got robbed by Frei. The Caps would continue to press for the remainder of the half but never seriously threatened the Seattle goal again.
In summation I thought Russell Teibert and Aly Ghazal were excellent at keeping the Sounders from getting much going in the middle of the park. Teibert was in his usual buzz-saw mode cutting off everything in front of the CB’s while Ghazal held strong in the middle and used his leg-span to interrupt runs and passing lanes. There is no doubt in my mind that this pairing is our strongest option at center mid. Alphonso Davies was again in the mix for the best Cap on the pitch. He was all over the park seemingly playing both wings at times, again showing off his excellent ball/body control and speed. The fact that the team had a strong game is concerning, because they were beaten.
The final six matches of the season will be against the strongest teams in the west. The Caps face in order; FC Dallas, LA Galaxy, Toronto FC, Sporting Kansas City, Los Angeles FC and finally the Portland Timbers. Mercifully of their three away games the teams only serious travel is to Toronto, with the other away games being the California teams. The Caps will likely need three wins and one or two ties to make the playoffs. The entire season may indeed hinge on the final match against Portland. The Caps host second-best-in-the-west Dallas next Sunday, they need to have short memories. Carl Robinson has to get this team out on the training ground working on their finishing. If they can hone in their collective range finders they may just have a chance at the playoffs.