The Vancouver Whitecaps suffered their fourth straight loss away from home, falling 2-0 to the Seattle Sounders in their Cascadia Cup clash at CenturyLink Field on Saturday afternoon.
The dynamic Alphonso Davies was given the “club’s permission” to miss Saturday’s game, and it was apparent that he was sorely missed as the Whitecaps were dour without him.
Here are three takeaways from the match.
No Davies, no party
Alphonso Davies (three goals, eight assists) has been involved in 11 of the Whitecaps’ 30 goals in MLS this season. Only Kei Kamara (eight goals, three assists) has been as integral to Vancouver’s attacking output.
It’s natural for an attack to decline when a key player is unavailable, but it should never be this drastic, especially with Kamara, Yordy Reyna and Cristian Techera starting. All three have been strong contributors.
Not for the first time, Brian Schmetzer and the Seattle Sounders coaching staff knew immediately how to shut down the Whitecaps attack. With Kamara up front, there is always a steady stream of crosses into the box. No player has won more aerial duels per game in MLS this season than Kamara, per WhoScored.com, but unfortunately for him, Chad Marshall and Kim Kee-hee are pretty dominant in the air themselves.
Kamara finished the game without a single duel won in the air.
The Whitecaps didn’t stray from that strategy, either. Almost all of their passes into the box were rather direct.
Coach Carl Robinson would benefit by giving his forwards more creative freedom. It adds more unpredictability and provides far more options when attacking. Perhaps the inclusion of Anthony Blondell, who is far more involved in the build-up than Kamara, would help, too.
However, this isn’t the first time the attack was completely nullified and it likely won’t be the last.
Whitecaps midfield struggles. Again.
Another major issue for the Whitecaps in this game, and throughout the season, has been the midfield.
Up until Nicolas Mezquida entered the match on 59 minutes, no player was making runs between the Sounders’ lines. It’s significantly easier for an opposing defence to keep an attack at bay when there are no runners penetrating those deep blocks.
The midfield trio of Efrain Juarez, Felipe and Jordon Mutch barely cut into the final third. One of them have to follow their passes, run into the pockets of space, receive the ball, and then the opposition’s shape becomes disjointed. That was sorely lacking for Vancouver.
Considering the Whitecaps had a numerical advantage in the midfield – the Sounders started Cristian Roldan and Gustav Svensson in the middle – it’s inexcusable for such little circulation in the central channels.
The buildup from midfield was also incredibly slow, which helped the Sounders, who were exposed in the middle, as seen below.
Defensively, the Whitecaps midfield was a mess as well. The second goal was aided by Stefan Marinovic’s gaff, but no one closed down Nicolas Lodeiro, who had tons of space and time to place his shot.
In total, the three Whitecaps midfielders won a combined eight duels. Roldan and Svensson had 10 as a duo. Osvaldo Alonso, who was substituted into the match right before halftime, recovered possession four times.
The Whitecaps clearly lost the midfield battle and it showed.
Indiscipline rears its ugly head for Vancouver
If losing 2-0 to their Cascadia rivals wasn’t enough, Efrain Juarez wrapped a bow on the proceedings with an unnecessary red card.
After a needless challenge on Lodeiro, Juarez profusely protested the booking. After bumping referee Chris Penso and shouting in his face, the Mexican international received another yellow and a sending off.
That was the Whitecaps’ seventh red card of the season, the highest total in MLS. It’s also the 30th sending off in all competitions for the team under Robinson.
After Brek Shea was sent off for dissent against Toronto FC on March 18, 2017, head coach Carl Robinson said he “100 per cent” doesn’t condone indiscipline.
Seventeen months later, players are still receiving unnecessary red cards.
Whatever the issue may be with this, it needs to be eradicated, or else the Whitecaps will keep shooting themselves in the foot.