This year was about new experiences for Seattle SoundersIncluding the first ever CONCACAF Champions League nickname. After Saturday night’s 2-1 defeat to Vancouver WhitecapsThey are about to add another item to the list.
While they weren’t eliminated – thanks in part to some positive results elsewhere – the loss dealt a crushing blow to their already weak qualifying hopes. With only three games left for the rest of the season and with so many teams to jump in, the Sounders will have to count on some hard-to-imagined results to slip into the seventh hole in the West.
After the game, the Sounders were left to talk about sporting opportunities for the playoff, which is rarely a place you want to be late in the season. And even with the myriad of opportunities given to Sounders, when a label needed to be made, Sounders couldn’t rise to the occasion.
It seems that time has run out.
The Sounders will have about 10 days to think about where they’re going from here before hosting FC Cincinnati, probably incredibly short-handed. Failure to win there will likely move their playoff chances from theory to none, and if it does, it will be another new experience the Sounders have to deal with.
It’s a cliched phrase in football: possession has no value unless it is for a purpose. It might be a stressful saying, but Saunders’ performance on Saturday night would be an example A in the dictionary. Having outdone Whitecaps by a 2:1 margin, the Sounders managed only a handful of shots – none on target – in the first half. Things improved in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but when the goal didn’t come, the Sounders couldn’t do much until the final moments of the game, by which point it was too late.
Like the Sounders struggling in attack, the story was pretty much the same in defense: gaps in focus costing the Sounders dearly. Although the White Caps were content to concede possession to the unlucky Sounders attacking, when the opportunity arose for the Vancouver, they were able to finish the match mercilessly. The first goal was due to the Sounders finding themselves off-center and unable to take the ball off the Whitecaps’ strikers, while Julian Gressel’s shot deserves a lot of the credit, the Sounders either failing to score or closing in after clearing his head.
The Sounders are credited with fighting to the end and there is no doubt about their efforts. Much of that can be credited to Freddy Monteiro and Will Bruyne, the latter giving the Sounders a chance with a late header from a pass from the former. Much of the Sounders attacking improvement – like that – can also be credited to introducing Montero in the first half and giving the Sounders a more serious look. It was unfortunate, then, that the Sounders were unable to score early in the second half to put the Whitecaps under pressure.
The loss to Vancouver not only damaged the Sounders’ playoff chances along with any potential reform opportunity, but also saw them drop to last place in the Cascadia Cup standings for the first time since 2016. It also left the Sounders behind both Cascadia. Cousins is in the MLS Western Conference standings, which if it ended this way would be the first time since 2015. While the Sounders took home a big prize – perhaps the biggest prize – of the season, there were more than enough hits to bring the Sounders well off that perch.
The price of a Champions League victory is still being imposed on the Sounders thanks to a rescheduled game against FC Cincinnati. The match, originally scheduled for April 9, was rescheduled in the wake of the Sounders’ move to the title. With the game set to be played at the end of the international break, the Sounders will be without a handful of starters against the much-improved FCC team looking to cement their place in the playoff. Even if the Sounders get Raul Ruediaz back, they will have to rely on a provisional lineup to delay what appears to be the inevitable.