Sounders bolster case for playoffs with 2-1 win over Whitecaps
In what was probably the wildest match of the Sounders’ season so far, Seattle took home a precious three points with a huge 2-1 win over the Whitecaps on Sunday night.
Due to both injury and suspension, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer was forced to make a number of potentially important changes to his starting XI for the team’s trip to Vancouver. Erik Friberg replaced the suspended Nicolas Lodeiro while a late scratch to Andreas Ivanschitz meant that Herculez Gomez came into the starting lineup for the first time since July. The Whitecaps’ most meaningful loss was center back Kendall Waston, who was also suspended for the match.
Since the Whitecaps are essentially out of the MLS Cup Playoffs race, this match meant far more to the Sounders.
Vancouver started on the front foot, buoyed by its fans and its only shot at silverware this season – the Cascadia Cup. The lineup changes forced the Sounders to play a slightly different formation than they had in recent weeks, and it clearly took them a few minutes to find their feet. An early injury to Seattle’s Flaco Fernandez forced Schmetzer to use a substitution far earlier than he had hoped, bringing on Oniel Fisher in the 10th minute to replace Fernandez. This pushed Joevin Jones to the left wing as Fisher took his spot at left-back.
Whitecaps captain Pedro Morales fired a dangerous shot from deep after 18 minutes, but his effort flew just wide after bouncing off the post. Seattle had a few good opportunities afterwards thanks to some good work down the left flank but failed to covert any of them. As the Whitecaps charged back down the pitch, Fisher was judged to have brought down Alphonso Davies on the edge of the box near the goal line. Morales fired in the resulting penalty to put the Whitecaps up 1-0 in the 25th minute.
The Whitecaps nearly had another after Davies turned Fisher around in the box to open up enough space to shoot from close range, but his shot was weak and saved by Seattle keeper Stephen Frei. After the Sounders charged down the other end of the pitch, Jones found himself in some space on the left and crossed it in for Osvaldo Alonso, who blasted the shot past Vancouver goalie David Ousted to make it 1-1 in the 39th minute.
The Whitecaps nearly kicked the second half off with a bang, as Fisher gave up a foul in a dangerous position minutes after the restart. The resulting free kick forced a big save from Frei, who turned the ball over the bar for a Vancouver corner. Seattle got a pretty big break from the referee, who sent off Morales for an elbow on Cristian Roldan’s face in the 54th minute.
Neither side found much footing until Jordan Morris found himself in on goal thanks to a great pass by Alonso, but his final shot was fairly tame and parried wide by Ousted. In the 65th, Fisher was substituted back out for returning captain Brad Evans. Not much of note happened for a big chunk of time, until the referee gave his second penalty of the match, only this time it was in Seattle’s favor. Evans had burst into the box and crossed it to the center, where it hit the hand of Vancouver’s Jordan Harvey. Evans, who was returning from injury in the match, scored the penalty to put Seattle up 2-1 in the 81st minute.
Evans wouldn’t last much longer, however, as he also saw the match’s second red card of the night in the 84th minute for attempting to headbutt a Whitecaps player in the opposition box. The Sounders barely finished the match out without incident, earning an insanely important three points on their road to the playoffs.
Man of the match: Alonso was all over the pitch for Seattle, scoring, creating, tackling. He did everything for his team.
Turning point: The red card for Morales took away Vancouver’s most dangerous player. Even though the Whitecaps still played well, they looked less likely to score a second after losing him. Seattle probably wouldn’t have been able to earn and score its penalty had it not been up a man at the time.
One reason to worry: Seattle lost two midfielders to injuries when it really had none to spare. The Sounders could also be without an international or two in their next match, too, which comes at the tail end of the international break. If Evans’ red card isn’t rescinded, they’ll be without another important player.
One reason to relax: The Sounders got three points when it was unlikely that they would get any, and they have a bye week to get healed up. They just might be alright.
Spenser Davis also covers the Sounders for Sounder at Heart.