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Rotated Whitecaps second best to Seattle in 2-0 loss

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MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Despite an organized first half, a heavily rotated Caps side was second best to Seattle Sounders Tuesday at Providence Park, setting up a pivotal two games for Vancouver if they hope to make a playoff appearance.

A goal and an assist from Raul Rudiaz inside the first 15 minutes of the second half was enough to bury the Caps, who had virtually no offensive firepower—despite bringing on their best attacking players to try and get a result.

As promised, Marc dos Santos went with a heavily rotated side from Saturday’s 2-1 win in light of the Caps’ grueling schedule. Only four players carried over from the start and MDS also interesting opted for a formation change, playing three centrebacks in a 3-4-3.

Derek Cornelius and Andy Rose returned to the lineup to slot aside Ranko Veselinovic. In front of them was a Russell Teibert and Michael Baldisimo midfield, with Cristian Gutierrez and Janio Bikel playing at wingback. Up front, Ryan Raposo and Tosaint Rickett flanked Theo Bair at striker.

The rotated side went up against a full-strength Sounders team, who trotted out their best XI but the Caps did a good job early of frustrating their more potent opponents. Still, there were a couple hospital balls from the backline which forced a quick recovery and the Caps were forced on a number of occasion to find their shape and catch shots in the box.

When the Caps did try and foray forward offensively it was almost always from long balls over the top for Bair to run onto, usually from Raposo or Baldisimo. Seattle’s centrebacks, while able to recover, seemed content to let the Caps attempt this sole move repeatedly.

The closest the Caps came to conceding was moments before the half when (I know I’m going to shock you) a Sounders player got free at the back post. Vancouver was saved by the quick reaction of Derek Cornelius to deflect Kelvin Leerdam’s free header out of play but it was a warning shot shortly before the break.

As the second half started the Caps moved very quickly from a mid-block to a low-block, swinging some dangerous crosses in. Seattle took advantage on a lovely break, with Nouhou Todo playing in Raul Rudiaz, who poked it past Evan Bush. The goal required an assist from VAR, who determined Rudiaz was onside and the 1-0 deficit prompted a host of changes from Marc dos Santos to compensate.

With the Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero and Cristian Dajome brought on early in the second half one would open up the and it did ... in Seattle’s favor.

The dangerous breaks continues for the Sounders, as Rudiaz burned by Ranko, drew out Bush and a scrambling Caps defense could not close off Nico Lodeiro from polishing off the resulting pass to put the Sounders up 2-0. Leonard Owusu and Ali Adnan came on shortly thereafter for more reinforces

The Caps seemed to have a pretty compelling penalty shout late in the game, when Xavier Arreaga got the ball but hacked down Cristian Dajome in the process. VAR had a look but ultimately elected to pass on giving the Caps a chance to pull a goal back (tbh probably the only chance they were going to get).

A Lucas Cavallini overhead kick and long range Ali Adnan free kick were the only shots the Caps had this match, as the proceedings ended 2-0.

Thoughts

  • The Caps did everything right in the first half for this kind of match, which is what made the first 15 minutes of the second so frustrating when they undid all of those positives. Probably the more concerning part was that the team was hardly able to conjure a shot even when the core starters came on for the final half hour or so.
  • It is not good when your best chance of the night comes from a Lucas Cavallini overhead kick.
  • This was probably a good learning experience for Michael Baldisimo, who looked very strong in all facets of his game in the first half, tracking back well to aid in his defensive duties. But he wasn’t quite as tight in that work in the second half (I agree with the TSN boys that he maybe was a bit slow to react on the second Seattle goal). Still was good to have him back starting, which he should be again on Sunday based off his play on the ball alone.
  • Unclear how Derek Cornelius has been unable to get a match this whole season, was clearly the best defender out there tonight. Hopefully his knock isn’t serious. (He confirmed post match it is not.)
  • Similarly unclear how Ranko keeps getting starts—I know we need to justify the money that was just spent and he put in an admittedly credible performance last time out. But woof, that was a roof performance between the hospital balls and the inability to cope with attackers that embody modern MLS. Am trying to remain optimistic about his prospects in Vancouver because, well, I have no choice but he still has a lot of growing to do.
  • Thought Raposo and Bair did a lot with a little, with Raposo even tracking back while fluidly changing positions with Gutierrez on the left side. He didn’t get a shot (sorry Caleb—neither did most anyone else!) but thought his distribution was on point. And a more coherent strategy could have gotten Bair a goal with those balls over the top—thought he did well up on that island with basically no support.
  • I’m going to choose to believe this was a weird, fluky game due to scheduling but it will be a mental blow for a team who needs at least four points in their next two games. The lack of urgency from the first choice players was disappointing late in the game but this was always going to be the match to punt. This was a very bad match but also probably not one that can be used to support any grand theories about the future of the franchise.