There was all to play for Sunday evening as the Vancouver Whitecaps met the Seattle Sounders. Both sides were looking to avoid crashing out of the MLS is Back tournament in horribly embarrassing fashion. Vancouver did not make any personnel changes from the side that lost to San Jose but did arrange their players differently.
Meanwhile Seattle fielded a centre back pairing which looked like it could be exploited with Arreaga having made an error against Chicago and O’Neill not being a regular starter.
What could possibly go wrong?
From the very start it looked like Vancouver would be the winners of “most embarrassing team in group B” award as Bwana appeared to have scored an early goal for the Sounders but the goal was called back for offside. If you thought this fortunate break would be the wakeup call the ‘Caps needed to turn things around then you would be crushingly wrong.
Seattle almost caught Vancouver on a counter in the 8th minute but Maxime Crepeau was able to stop Jordan Morris. Jake Nerwinski then put in an impressive block on the rebound.
The Whitecaps then had a good look of their own in the 12th minute when Leonard Owusu headed just wide from close range off an Ali Adnan free kick. Perhaps they were coming back into the game? Wrong!
In the 14th minute the Sounders won a penalty as a Jordan Morris shot clattered off Jasser Khmiri’s hand. It was bad look for Khmiri who’s hand was very close to his body but nevertheless it was a clear penalty. Nicolas Lodeiro stepped up and made it look easy as he sent Crepeau the wrong way and gave Seattle the 1-0 lead.
Despite this the Whitecaps looked like they might be able to make something happen In the 24th minute a long ball from from Ranko Vaselinovic found Cristian Dájome on the left side of the Sounder’s box. Dájome circled back and passed it to In-Beom Hwang, who then found Russel Teibert Who in turn switched the ball to David Milinkovic on the right side. Milinkovic beat his man and unleashed a decent strike but it was right at Stefan Frei.
At the first hydration break the Whitecaps had the majority of the possession and some decent looks but were down a goal. They did look much improved from their outing against San Jose but not to a degree that would win over many of the increasingly jaded fan base.
In the 35th minute those jaded fans were proved right as Owusu gave the ball away and Morris was played through for an easy goal and a 2-0 Sounders lead. That would be how the teams went into the halftime break.
Things continued to get worse as Seattle made it 3-0 in the 50th minute of a comically poorly defended corner. In the 55th minute goalkeeper Maxime Crepeu went down with an injury. The Whitecaps were forced to turn to youngster Thomas Hasal. The MLS debutant was called into action quickly, diving at the feet of Raul Ruidiaz following a poor Jake Nerwinski back pass and then leaping to his feat to deny Lodeiro on the rebound.
Seattle then proceeded to play with their food for 30 minutes and neither team looked all that dangerous.
Thomas Hasal currently the highest rated Whitecap on Whoscored. He has touched the ball 8 times. #VWFC— Caleb Wilkins (@wilkins_caleb24) July 20, 2020
In the 90th minute Theo Bair mildly troubled Frei with a looping header. Shortly thereafter the referee mercifully brought proceedings to a close.
The Whitecaps are now almost certainly out of the tournament, though there is still the possibility of advancing as a 3rd place team if they beat the Chicago Fire by a large margin. But the ‘Caps are most likely going home (which may be a good thing considering the rising tide of Coronavirus in Florida). Yes, the tournament is taking place under extraordinary circumstances, yes they are missing players, but even factoring those handicaps in you have to think the Whitecaps should be able to do more. Individual players have shown they have quality. Owusu has been fabulous, Milinkovic has been very good in my opinion, i’ve liked what Ali Adnan has shown, Yordy Reyna has put in a good shift as an emergency striker, Ranko Vaselinovic looks a very exciting prospect at centre back, but the collective looks just awful. Players frequently look like they don’t know what to do when defending set pieces, when playing against a set defence, and when they should be pressing. This comes down to preparation and the coaching staff have to take responsibility for that. The San Jose Earthquakes were the last team in MLS to have access to their training facilities yet they have stormed to first place in the group looking (a few hysterical Whitecaps goals aside) like a well oiled machine. It can be done and, for whatever reason, it was not done in Vancouver.
Vancouver’s 3rd and probably final MLS is Back game takes place this Thursday at 6 AM Pacific time.