The first leg is in the books, and it’s onward and southward to Seattle for the climax of this thus far rather anticlimactic playoff series between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Seattle Sounders. The first leg in Vancouver this past Sunday was a cagey affair. Tension-filled, a chess match, one for the purists. In a word, it was boring. But the Whitecaps accomplished what they set out to. They denied Seattle an away goal, and enter Century Link Field needing only not to lose to advance.
Can they find any offence? That is the question hovering over the club and its supporters. Sure, the team can play defensively sound when it wants to, but the Seattle tandem of Lodeiro and Dempsey is likely to test them. Stefan Marinovic has been solid since assuming the starter’s job, but the best of keepers will be beaten if the line in front of them breaks or is broken down. Pulling the trick Seattle pulled in last year’s MLS Cup Final and winning without an attempt on goal is not likely to fly here. Offence will be needed, and it’s offence this club has struggled to find at times this year. They are the lowest-scoring remaining club in the playoffs. If the best eleven is available, there is hope, but Carl Robinson said just a few days ago that Yordy Reyna and Cristian Techera may not be available. If that’s the case, it’s anybody’s guess where the Whitecaps will find goals. Christian Bolaños looked capable of generating offence early in the season, but the same has not been true recently. Since returning from a knee injury he’s looked less sharp, and hasn’t been the threat Vancouver needs. Nicolas Mezquida had a brace against San Jose a week ago, but that was when the Earthquakes were chasing the game and Vancouver was pummelling them on the counter. Nosa Igiebor, who looked calm and excellent against Portland in the final regular season match, did not look like the attacking midfielder role suited him in the first leg. Fredy Montero is great at popping up out of nowhere to poach a goal, but he did not look like his former self until Reyna arrived on the scene and started unlocking other defences. So perhaps, as so often this year, it will be the hope of an early set piece goal and then a counter as their opponents press.
Carl Robinson says he likes the underdog role. He better. The oddsmakers certainly see them as such. Sports Betting Dime in particular has the Whitecaps at +380, with the Sounders -143, on expectations that Reyna and Techera can’t go. If either of those two look like slotting in, those odds will skew back to the visitors.
And if Vancouver can get past the Sounders, it’s a beatable Houston side or a ridiculously banged up Portland that will be all that stands between the Caps and their first MLS Cup appearance.
Vancouver Whitecaps at Seattle Sounders
November 2nd, 7:30pm
TSN 5 / TSN 1040