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Report Card: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders

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Seattle Sounders FC v Vancouver Whitecaps FC - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Vancouver Whitecaps are now 0-for-2 at the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando and, following Sunday night’s 3-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders. With an opportunity to send the MLS Cup holders home early from Orlando, Vancouver instead sits at the bottom of Group F and in need of a lot of help if they want to make the knockout stage.

We’ve got the player ratings to discuss, but before doing so there are two team-wide grievances I have that need airing and absolutely cannot wait for Festivus.

First, Vancouver’s zonal defending on cornerkicks has been excruciatingly useless in both matches, particularly when their defenders refuse to move to the ball under any circumstance. This strategy isn’t working, as evident in having conceded three awkward goals off corner kicks in two matches.

And what was with the bizarre insistence of every single Whitecap to only attempt balls into the Seattle penalty area with their strong foot? I don’t know if a single player tried crossing with their off-foot unless it was absolutely necessary. That made for an easy night of defending for Seattle, knowing Vancouver’s players could be corralled into telegraphing their decision-making.

With those gripes out of the way, let’s breakdown the individual efforts from Sunday night.

Max Crepeau - 4

Crepeau was put to work early, making a big save with an even bigger rebound off a Jordan Morris shot after six minutes.

For the goals, Max was sent the wrong way on Nicholas Lodeiro’s penalty, where PK’s are usually a guessing game, though he certainly could have reacted quicker on Morris’ breakaway before having the shot placed between his wickets. On the third, Crepeau actually had a play off a flick from an unmarked Handwalla Bwanna, but was left to flail as an unmarked Morris made the slightest of touches to put the ball onto the foot of an unmarked Raul Ruidiaz.

Apologies for having used the word “unmarked” so many times in describing that corner kick goal, but the marking on that corner kick goal was atrocious.

Crepeau only had one more save him in on the night, but it was a painful one. In disrupting a low cross from Morris to Bwanna, Crepeau appeared to get his hand stepped on by Bwanna before taking a knee to the ribs. He remained on the ground for quite some time and eventually had his glove cut from his hand by the trainers, so it wasn’t surprising to see Crepeau removed from the match.

Replacing Crepeau in the 58th minute was Thomas Hasal (7.5), who quickly impressed in his MLS debut, making two big saves less than five minutes after his introduction. Hasal did well to react off a horrendous backpass that looked more like a great through ball to Ruidiaz. Hasal first blocked Ruidiaz’s effort before immediately getting low to knock wide Lodeiro’s bouncing effort wide.

The remainder of Hasal’s debut was uneventful as the Sounders could only register a single blocked shot in the last 35+ minutes. That doesn’t mean Hasal was not effectual, as you could hear him yelling at his backline during the broadcast. Aside from some nervy goal kicks, the twenty-one year old did not look out of place.

Ali Adnan - 3.5

Adnan’s deadballs looked decent and he made some strong runs to the corner, but too often did he carry the ball straight into pressure, and he was one of many who needs a reminder that he’s got a second foot with which he can make passes.

Defensively, Adnan had less to do, as Seattle’s attack stayed on the opposite side of the field, but that didn’t keep the leftback from looking lethargic anyway, particularly in the second half.

Adnan was replaced with another twenty-something MLS debutant, Cristian Gutierrez (6.5), in the 72nd minute. By the time Gutierrez came in, Seattle was already comfortable in maintaining their three-goal cushion, but the young left back still made an impression with his good positioning and ability to close down on the ball quickly.

Ranko Veselinovic - 3.5

Strong in the air for the most part, but less so with the ball at his feet, both in his passing and when maintaining possession. Often felt like the game was moving around him, particularly on that third goal when he was one of three Whitecaps (Adnan and Khmiri being the other two) who were absolutely cemented to the edge of the six-yard box.

Jasser Khmiri - 3

Like Ranko, Khmiri looked like he could only react to the game as it went on around him, never truly influencing the play. Not the best course of action when dealing with the pace of a Jordan Morris. Sure, he could collapse on plays and block or disrupt shots, but why not do something early rather than at the last moment? Particularly when you generally can’t keep up with Morris?

And I can’t stress this enough: made no effort to contain a mark or get to the ball on the third goal’s corner kick. More ball-watching on set pieces.

The handball PK was unfortunate, with a blocked Morris shot deflecting up to Khmiri’s hand. It’s not like he was throwing jazz hands out there at the most inopportune time; just an unfortunate chain of events.

Khmiri was replaced with Derek Cornelius (5) in the 73rd minute who, like Gutierrez, was left to deal with a Sounders attack that was satisfied with their established lead.

Jake Nerwinski - 2.5

Nerwinski gets points for some decent blocks and well-timed tackles, but he left a lot of space between himself and the players he needed to close down. Chose to collapse rather than challenge for the ball far too often.

And his passing? Oof. On the second goal, the Sounders pounced on Nerwinski’s too-soft pass played away from where Owusu was running, then made the backpass that sent Ruidiaz on a 1v1 with Hasal.

Nerwinski looked uncertain of himself throughout this one.

Russell Teibert - 4

Teibert kind of had a weird match. He was reading plays well, but sometimes found difficulty getting involved, particularly on offense. His movement in the final third was ineffective, for example, as he’d either make runs into spaces where he couldn’t possibly receive a pass, or would stay still when there was space for him to move into. The effort was there, as it usually is with Teibert, but it was too chaotic.

Hwang In-beom - 5.5

Good turns with the ball and was usually the one to instigate passing segments that would build up the park and was often the one ins, but needed to be stronger on the ball. Honestly, I don’t think Hwang had a bad match but, like his teammates, had no solutions in how to penetrate the Sounders’ penalty area. All the skill moving up the pitch stopped twenty yards too short.

Leonard Owusu - 5

Very calm on the ball and like Hwang made a lot of good turns, often in smart places where he was afforded time to do so (in space, away from his penalty area, etc.). Owusu was reading the play well and I wish the Whitecaps ran the offense through him more.

Owusu came off at 55’ for Ryan Raposo (5), who’s inclusion forced Teibert off the left wing and to the center of the pitch.

Raposo did well to pressure Seattle’s rightback (by then, I think it was Alex Roldan), and I loved how wide he was staying, but’s got to do more to at least try to get to the endline and trust his left foot for a cross.

David Milinkovic - 4

Had a weird battle throughout with Nouhou Tolo, as both looked super awkward on the ball. Needs to work better with Nerwinski behind him, as neither knew when to close down players on defense. Great pickpocket of Roldan (18), but awkward run after feeding Reyna. Good step on Nouhou, kind of soft shot (24). Asleep on Leerdam on 3rd goal.

Came off at 55’ for Theo Bair (5), who went up top to partner with Yordy Reyna, moving Cristian Dajome to the right wing. Did make too much of an impact, but was absolutely the big target Vancouver needed, as evidenced in him climbing over Nouhou to get to a header late in stoppage time.

Cristian Dajome - 4

Looked nervy and uncertain throughout the match, usually in or around Seattle’s penalty area, which is what you don’t want in a striker. Made some weird passes, layoffs, and runs, making it kind of possible that he did in fact think the PA was made of lava.

Dajome did well early on to come back and receive passes, but wouldn’t do so if he was in the final third, waiting for passes to his feet rather than showing for the ball or moving to space. His playing style was far too similar to that of his strike partner, Reyna, without being as effective, and moving to the wing didn’t help as Dajome stayed far too narrow and would move laterally rather than up the pitch

Yordy Reyna - 5

Liked his aggression on the night. Good body positioning, whether it was in shielding the ball or showing for it, but Reyna always reads the play well. He just needs to get the ball more often. And even when he doesn’t get his pass, at least Reyna’s working hard to get the ball back. Unfortunately, he was as incapable as every other Whitecap when it came to figuring out the final third. That blast over the bar in the 84th minute was ugly.