Through three games and three losses, there’s nowhere to go but up for the Vancouver Whitecaps (0-3-0). The good news? It’s still early enough to right this sinking ship! Huzzah!
The bad news? There’s a storm a-brewin’ in the form of the high flying, perfect record-bearing, Cascadia Cup rivaling Seattle Sounders (3-0-0).
Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC
When: Saturday, March 30th at 7 PM PST
How: TSN1 (TV); TSN 1040 (Radio); MLS Live on ESPN+ (Internet)
What Happened Last
Suffice to say, Seattle took all the spoils from Vancouver in 2018.
The Sounders won the mid-July match at CenturyLink, 2-0, behind two goals from Nicolas Lodeiro, a game far more notorious in Whitecaps lore for the two yellow cards referee Chris Penso snapped off on Efrain Juarez.
And in the return match, right in the thick of the Whitecaps’ “push” for the playoffs, the Seattle swept Vancouver out of BC Place, winning 2-1 on goals from Raul Ruidiaz. Kei Kamara was able to halve the deficit, but it wasn’t enough to keep Seattle from clinching the Cascadia Cup, despite the fact Vancouver and Portland still had a game remaining in the rivalry competition.
In all-time, regular season MLS play, the Whitecaps are 7-10-5 against Seattle, with 27 Goals For & 33 Against. Not the best side of the rivalry to be on, but those numbers aren’t entirely horrible.
Oh, wait. You wanted horrible? My bad. Try this instead: in their last five matches against Seattle (including playoffs), the Whitecaps are 0-4-1, with 2 GF and 10 GA. And when it comes to hosting the Sounders, Vancouver is 3-5-4, with 13 GF and 18 GA, which doesn’t include the 0-0 playoff dud in 2017.
As of Thursday night, the MLS Injury Report lists three Whitecaps as being unavailable: Michael Baldisimo (ankle), Jasser Khmiri (knee), and Brett Levis (hamstring), though it was definitely encouraging to see Levis back in training this week.
However, there’s a fourth name from our previous check of the report who was first removed and will, unfortunately, be added anew: Russell Teibert.
It was fantastic to see Rusty get playing time for the national team in Canada’s 4-1 defeat of French Guiana in their final CONCACAF Nations League qualifier, particularly because of his lack of playing time for the Whitecaps in 2019.
Nevertheless, you’ve got to question whether or not it was worth it when Teibert went down during second-half injury time.
I’ve heard it was his shoulder he landed on but, either way, I was at the Canada/French Guiana match and Teibert went down hard. Bit of a scare when the stretcher came out, but was happy to see him walk off the pitch on his own.
Nevertheless, it’s definitely telling when the gaffer Marc Dos Santos says, “It doesn’t look good” when describing whether or not he’ll be ready for the weekend.
Dos Santos said today that Ali Adnan is definitely "an option" for Saturday, while "it doesn't look good" for Russell Teibert after picking up a shoulder injury on Sunday with the #canMNT. Brett Levis is also back to full training.#VWFC— Farhan Devji (@farhandevji) March 26, 2019
Strangely, Andy Rose’s name was also missing from the report, after suffering a concussion and facial fracture against Houston, but ultimately Dos Santos described him as being day-to-day. Given the nature of the injury I would not be surprised if Rose is unavailable, thus making for a tricky midfield lineup to pencil for Dos Santos, considering how Hwang In-beom went for 70 and 90 minutes in wins against Bolivia and Colombia, respectively, over the international break.
Meanwhile, the Sounders have no one presently listed on the report. Whoopee. Good for them.
Who’s Worth Watching?
Jon Erice vs. Nicolas Lodeiro
Take this as you want, but when an MLSSoccer.com editor lists “Lodeiro, Lodeiro, Lodeiro, Lodeiro, and Lodeiro” as his early Top 5 in a “Player of the Year” race, that’s enough for me to think the Whitecaps will need to keep an eye on the Uruguayan No. 10.
In three games so far, Lodeiro’s tallied a goal and three assists, has averaged 3 Key Passes & 76 Total Passes per game with a 81.6% success rate, and made Team of the Week twice. And with the ball still at his feet, he’s also drawn more fouls than anyone else this season.
He’s slick and can move the ball: without Lodeiro, Jordan Morris could arguably have one goal so far instead of three. Even the control & outlet pass to Victor Rodriguez was critical in the Sounders’ third goal against FC Cincinnati to open the season, but full credit to Rodriguez for the sprint & Morris for the one-time finish.
Regardless, Lodeiro is the main reason Seattle is leading the league in counter-attack goals, because of quick, accurate movement of the ball from the center of the pitch.
And though he doesn’t necessarily occupy the space of a true defensive center-mid, Erice will most likely be the one sitting deep enough to thwart Lodeiro while Ruidiaz floats around in Henry/Godoy territory.
If Erice is able to stymie Lodeiro before he can break out, without fouling him, and instead get the ball to the wings to attack the Sounders in the corners, the Whitecaps may have a chance in this one.
Who’s Going to Win?
Seattle were trending upward at the end of 2018, knowing full well they’d be getting back a healthy Jordan Morris, and boy have they hit the ground running. To be fair, DC United haven’t even conceded yet, but its Seattle still holding a perfect record.
As for the Whitecaps, well... new coach, roster turnover, “so much potential,” “everyone’s getting familiar,” yadda yadda yadda. It’s all been said, over and over. Admittedly, I still believe it, but progress will need to be made sooner or later.
There have been positives and it’s come in ebbs and flows, but realistically it would be nearly impossible for a team, constructed in the manner in which the 2019 Whitecaps were built, to immediately coalesce, just as it’s asinine to dump on the team for their inability to do so. The Whitecaps will find their way.
It just won’t be this weekend. The Sounders are on too much of a roll.
It’s possible that it’s this Saturday where everything finally comes together for the Whitecaps, but truthfully, I pegged this match at the start of the season as the final speedbump for Vancouver before the club starts making progress, and I don’t see a reason to change my mind. Lamentably, this one is going to Seattle, 2-0.
Vancouver - Crépeau; Adnan, Godoy, Henry, Sutter; Erice; Hwang, Felipe; Reyna, Montero, Venuto.
Seattle - Frei; Smith, Marshall, Kim, Leerdam; Roldan, Svensson; Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Morris; Ruidiaz.
Referee: Robert Sibiga; AR1: Kyle Atkins; AR2: Michael Barwegen; 4th: Ramy Touchan; VAR: Edvin Jurisevic; AVAR: Rene Parra.