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Post Match: Whitecaps Caught up in Cascadia Traffic

A long week for the Vancouver Whitecaps came to a conclusion in dramatic fashion, albeit not how the Whitecaps might have hoped it would.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

After a long trip south on the Canada Day long weekend for many Whitecaps fans and media members (shameless self-promotion), The Vancouver Whitecaps fell by a score of 1-0 to the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field.

With the strain of international duty still being felt by both sides, The Vancouver Whitecaps fielded a similar side to what we’ve seen over the past few matches, but with a rather different tactical approach, as PC joined the starting XI in midfield.

While in theory the Whitecaps presented themsleves with a diamond of four in the midfield, practically it looked more like a back five, with Jon Erice dropping back and aiding with distribution as well as defensive responsibilities.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Sounders fielded an incredibly young and inexperienced side, with many academy graduates earning starts - including a 16 year old Danny Leyva in the starting XI.

The majority of the first half was relatively non descript. I have to be honest, I looked up at the clock with 25 minutes gone and wondered whether or not anything had actually happened (other than a brief Sounders chance from Justin Dhillon which was ruled offside).

In the 36th minute, the Whitecaps were faced with a brief injury scare, as Jon Erice collided knee-on-knee with a Sounders midfielder and for moments it looked as though he might have to leave that match, although he would eventually return no worse for wear.

The Whitecaps headed to halftime with the score still level at 0-0 and with neither team really threatening in the final third. This heat map from whoscored below goes to show just how shocking both teams were in attack during the first half:

The Whitecaps were out-possessed by the Sounders 52% to 48% in the first half and outshot by the sounders 6 to 2, although again, neither team had really threatened goal in the first forty-five.

The Second half got off to a much spicier start than the first, with the Sounders quickly upping their level of play and increasing their pressure on the Whitecaps defensive lines. This culminated in the 53rd minute when Whitecaps’ fullback Jake Nerwinski was forced to dive in decisively for the block in his own box.

Just a few moments later, the Whitecaps had themselves perhaps their best moment of the match, as a series of strong passes led to a Reyna shot which found the crossbar - although I doubt it would’ve troubled goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who looked like he had it covered.

The most controversial moment of the match came in the 60th minute, when Zac Macmath came out aggressively to play the ball and collided with Sounders striker Justin Dhillon, who looked to have stepped on Macmath during the follow-through of his shot. On the ensuing play, Macmath stayed down, and eventually Danny Leyva lobbed the Whitecaps sprawling defenders, finding the back of the net.

Although initially the 16 year old looked to have his first MLS goal in his MLS debut, the goal would eventually be dis-allowed through VAR, as the officiating crew (I think correctly) went back and called the initial foul which occured on Macmath. Sounders fans (as well as Sounders media) were not pleased with this (and continued to let Macmath know about it for the rest of the match), but at the end of the day, a foul is a foul and I think that the right call was made.

The scoreline remained scoreless as the teams reached extra-time (eight minutes of it), and Theo Bair made his second appearance of the season for the Whitecaps, replacing Fredy Montero in the 90th minute. Once again, Marc Dos Santos decided not to make all 3 substitutions, and chose to only use one of his substitutions in regular time. With such a busy stretch of matches, and players away for international duty, Dos Santos’ deployment continues to be curious to say the least.

As extra time went on, the Whitecaps faded deeper and deeper into their own box defensively (as if they were almost inviting the Sounders to attack their area) and eventually, the Sounders obliged. In the 96th minute, Kelvin Leerdam found himself with a prime opportunity unmarked in the box and would make no mistake, sliding the ball past Andy Rose and an outstretched Zac Macmath.

For the Whitecaps and their travelling support, this was a brutal end to a match which had already been largely devoid of positives. They created very few high quality opportunities and struggled to move the ball through the midfield effectively throughout the match. To make matters worse, Fredy Montero once again looked largely uninvolved as he was often isolated up top and unable to hold up play effectively. At the final whistle, the Whitecaps were outshot 24-12 and out possessed 55% to 45%. This pretty much sums things up:

Despite a lot of negativity surrounding the night in Seattle, things did end on a rather positive note as during Marc Dos Santos’ post-match interview with TSN 1040 the gaffer hinted that Ali Adnan transfer discussions look positive, and that we should know definitively on the matter in the next 24 hours.

If this Saturday night in Seattle was any indication, the Whitecaps are going to need Adnan (as well as a few other key additions going forward) if they want to be in the mix come playoff time.