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Goalless in Seattle: Caps struggle in 4-0 loss to Sounders

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

In what has become an all-too-familiar fate in Seattle, the Caps fell 4-0 to their Cascadia rivals Tuesday night in Lumen Field and it was one the Sounders effectively dominated from start to finish.

A subpar defensive performance helped Raul Ruidiaz grab a pair of goals and the Sounders only briefly looked uncomfortable, when the Caps appeared to slightly get back into the match late in the first half. They needn’t have worried — the only real highlight here for the Caps was the debut of Andres Cubas in the second half.

Vanni Sartini elected for a 3-5-2/3-5-1-1 hybrid, with the usual backline (Nerwinski/Veselinovic/Godoy). The wingbacks were a bit funky, with Luis Martins making his full debut for the Caps and Marcus Godinho on the right side. Flo Jungwirth slotted back in as a defensive midfielder, with Leo Owusu and Ryan Gauld as advanced mids. Brian White and Deiber Caicedo paired up top.

It was a catastrophic start to the match for the Caps, who struggled to hold onto the ball. A turnover, some non-existent defending and some quick feet from Raul Rudiaz led to a 2v1. Cody Cropper stopped Fredy Montero initially but couldn’t hold onto the ball and while attempting to coral the spill hauled down Montero. Nico Lodeiro sent Cropper the wrong way and put the home side in front 1-0.

Seattle certainly stayed on the front foot but the Caps appeared to regroup pretty well. They favored some quick build ups, which periodically paid dividends. The most notable of those saw Deiber Caicedo played in on goal after a beautiful one-two but a) had his shot blocked and (most importantly) b) was offsides.

There was quite simply not enough there there, however and Seattle found the back of the net again. Seattle successfully executed what the Caps could not, with Medranda collecting a long pass, playing a layoff to Ruidiaz, who fired a lovely one-touch finish past a helpless Cropper.

Probably Vancouver’s best chance for a first half goal came after the Sounders majorly switched off on one of a string of Caps’ corner kicks. A great cross went through everyone, bypassing multiple Sounders’ defenders and a shot from Ryan Gauld was denied by a last-ditch block. The moment seemed to galvanize the Caps a bit in the 10 minutes or so leading up to halftime — a tough first half hour, a much improved finish to the half.

Much as the Sounders tallied minutes into the first half, they did the same in the second. Leo Chu put in an inch-perfect cross and, despite three defenders standing around him, the Caps elected to ignore Ruidiaz, who grabbed his second goal of the evening.

The only thing to really make the match better was Cubas’ debut for the final half hour, spelling Florian Jungwirth. Then moments later, he makes a horrid giveaway to gift a Ruidiaz 1v1 that was only saved by an impressive goal line clearance from Ranko. His next involvement after that? A yellow card. Impressive how quickly the Caps’ brand had rubbed off on him.

The Sounders pivoted to focus on preserving the clean sheet but managed to sneak another past Cody Cropper. Alex Roldan pushed forward and elected to shoot near post from distance. It was one Cropper should have saved and he appeared to immediately recognize it, an unfortunate end to a match to forget from start to finish.

Personal Thoughts

  • The Caps really favored the one-touch passes and a quick flurry of attack after a slow, meandering buildup. This is not a bad idea in theory! There were moments it worked quite well but this was generally a team who was plagued by poorly weighted passes and too much build up and not enough end product, with no shots on target.

It was apparent that the team was missing Lucas Cavallini because Deiber Caicedo isn’t a natural fit as a striker up top for this approach (he is better at making overlapping runs, swinging in crosses and finding guys like Cavallini). It was telling that the Sounders managed to co-opt the Caps’ tactical strategy and instantly perfect it to score the second goal.

  • Leo Owusu is really struggling to get involved in Vanni Sartini’s system. Playing as a DM, CM, CAM — no matter what Owusu is among the guys on the pitch with the fewest touches and his positioning is often baffling. It is hard to imagine Owusu as a starter as much going forward and I don’t have an issue with him as a sub but I think the spell is starting to wear off for fans and, one imagines, the manager, given he hooked Owusu for Alexandre at the half.
  • This is probably a moot point given the arrival of Andres Cubas but I think the Florian Jungwirth as a DM experiment is probably nearing the end of its natural life. When the team plays more compact and Flo doesn’t need to do a ton of running or isn’t required to do a ton to spring counter attacks, it works. But against a more dynamic attack, he gets caught out and isn’t quite as quick as to get back in position.
  • It probably isn’t necessary to revisit them in depth but man, was this a night of absolutely painful defensive errors after a few weeks of real improvement on this front. The third goal, where the entire back three just did nothing to mark Ruidiaz was comically inept. Ranko Veselinovic also did not cover himself in glory with the earlier two goals either.
  • To that end — there is an alternative history where Peru uses Ruidiaz in their intercontinental playoff game and the Caps eek out a sweaty 0-0 draw. Alas ...
  • Much too early to render an opinion on Cubas but I thought things were moderately more buttoned up with him on the pitch. He also had one interception that seemed right out of the highlight videos we all watched when he was signed and pinged one nice long ball for Caicedo in stoppage time.
  • Credit to Marcus Godinho, who I thought initially started off the pace but who responded well, particularly during the end of the first half, when the Caps most looked a threat. He was clearly instructed to push out very wide and play far forward but he managed to consistently whip in crosses and had a pair of key passes (on a night when those were collectors items). I also thought Luis Martins wasn’t bad either but he was yanked relatively early for Cristian Dajome.

Man of the Match

Not a real obvious answer here but I thought Deiber Caicedo is a good shout. He had some obvious shortcomings as a striker, as noted above, but I thought he played around them pretty well and was easily the most engaged attacking player. He also was probably the most adept at playing the one-touch passing style Sartini tried to get out of the side and if he could have done a better job holding himself onside, he could have had a goal.

Godinho and Gauld also are worth a shout but really the only answer here is Ruidiaz.