With just three matches left in the regular season, the Vancouver Whitecaps will be looking to make a quick turnaround as they prepare to face the Seattle Sounders Tuesday night at 7PM in Portland.
Unlike this past weekend, the Whitecaps won’t have the benefit of equal rest, and Marc Dos Santos suggested in his media availability that he expects a decent amount of squad rotation from the side that started the 2-1 victory over San Jose this past Saturday.
“We can’t go out there with the same team [as Saturday], if the game was on Wednesday it would have been a different story... It could impact the game similarly to the game against Chicago at MLS is Back. Hopefully we’ll be able to push like that. The guys that start the game have a huge responsibility. We need fresh legs, so it’s an opportunity to show how they can answer. It’s not a choice that is tactical, it’s pretty much mandatory.”
The Whitecaps’ opponents on Tuesday, meanwhile, have struggled a bit as of late. Their Cascadia rivals are winless over their last three matches, but the defending MLS Cup Champions are still a force to be reckoned with in the West. Even with their recent cold streak, the Sounders currently hold 2nd place in the conference, and sit just one point behind Sporting Kansas City, with one less match played.
The Sounders are still waiting to officially clinch a playoff spot (due to Colorado’s COVID issues), but this team will surely be looking to round into form against Vancouver as they prepare for the MLS Playoffs and a title defense. If you want more general information on how the Sounders’ season has been going, I’d also encourage you to check out my one-on-one with Mark from Sounder at Heart.
The last time these two teams met, which was October 3rd, the Whitecaps were comprehensively outplayed and were eventually reduced to ten men before the match ended 3-1 at Centurylink Field. The Whitecaps will not only be looking to prevent a sweep of the season series in this match, but also to inch closer to a playoff spot of their own, as they currently sit 7th in the Western Conference.
Any result in this one would help alleviate some pressure from the last two matches of the regular season, especially as the Whitecaps will be facing the Portland Timbers on home turf this coming Sunday. Ultimately though, unless the Whitecaps earn maximum points over the next two matches, their playoff fates will likely hinge on a final day matchup with the LA Galaxy at Providence Park.
Although the Whitecaps are coming off a win, I wouldn’t describe their recent play as confidence inspiring. Especially in the first half against San Jose, the Caps really struggled to find any fluidity in attack, and stagnated as soon as they entered the opponents’ half. On the defensive side of things, I thought the Whitecaps were actually quite solid, short of the one defensive error, although the Quakes didn’t offer hardly as much going forwards as we saw in the two prior matches this season.
Even though Dos Santos suggested that he’d look to make some wholesale changes due to the short rest, I’m hesitant to predict that we’ll see the likes of Theo Bair, Ryan Raposo, Patrick Metcalfe, Derek Cornelius and Cristian Gutierrez all grace the starting lineup against Seattle. Rather, I’d expect MDS to stick with the same base 4-4-2 we’ve seen recently, and mix up the rotation slightly, with a few top players coming off the bench.
I have the Whitecaps lining up like this:
This would give the Whitecaps a good mix of continuity, as well as the ability to bring some of their top players off the bench in Montero and Adnan. I could also see Tosaint Ricketts getting another start, either on the wing or as a striker, depending on his recovery from Saturday. If the Whitecaps want to win this one, I think they’ll have to get a strong second half performance from some substitutes and do just enough in the early stages of the match to stay in it.
At the end of the day, I still think the difference in quality between these two sides (coupled with the short rest) will be too much for the Whitecaps to overcome. I’m predicting a 2-0 victory for the Sounders, but hey, I’ve been wrong before!
Let me know what you think in the comments.