Vancouver Whitecaps holds on for Seattle draw to reach playoffs

Vancouver Whitecaps FC attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld at Starlight Stadium

VANCOUVER, BC – A dark, rainy Vancouver afternoon hosted the latest instalment of a historic club rivalry, and to say playoff implications were on the line is an understatement as Vancouver Whitecaps holds on for the Seattle draw.  As the Seattle Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps took to BC Place holding the 1st and 6th place spots in the west respectively. For Seattle, a win would confirm a bye in the first round of the MLS Playoffs and home-field advantage as the number one seed. As for the hosts Vancouver, a win or draw would secure them in their first playoff match since 2017. Colorado, Minnesota and Sporting KC are also factors coming into Sunday, with positive results for the three sides benefitting the Whitecaps as well.

One, an MLS Cup contender who is no stranger to looking down on the rest of the Western Conference. The other, a playoff hopeful led by an interim coach scratching and clawing their way back from a mid-season disaster into a top seven position. With BC Place’s lower bowl filled to the brim, the two sides emerged for warm-up lead by their respective goalkeepers. The Vancouver Southsiders in full voice behind the goal of Max Crepeau, meanwhile a handful of travelling Emerald City Supporters made the trek up the I-5 for the first-ever MLS decision day clash between the two sides.

Vancouver Whitecaps holds on for Seattle draw for first playoff appearance since 2017

If it isn’t broken…

In arguably the biggest game the club has played since 2017, Vanni Sartini selected a starting 11 few would raise an eyebrow at. His standard 3-4-1-2, with just a pair of changes from Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with LAFC. Erik Godoy made way for Ranko Veselinovic at the back, with Christian Gutierrez making just his second start since August 1st. He replaces Bruno Gaspar, seeing rookie Javain Brown sliding back over to his natural right side wing-back. Leo Owusu and Russel Teibert have both resurged been a staple in the middle of the park under Vanni Sartini, with Ryan Gauld completing the midfield trio. Finally Christian Dajome and Brian White complete the starting lineup as the two strikers. The pair are the club’s first striker duo since Eric Hassli and Camilo in 2011 to both score ten or more goals.

As for the visitors, Brian Schmentzer stuck to his guns and put out his usual 3-4-2-1, with no changes at the back. And when you’re leading the league in the fewest goals conceded, there’s very little reason to chop and change with first place and a bye on the line against one of your biggest rivals. Stefan Frei, Nouhou, Xavier Arreaga, Yeimar Gomez, Brad Smith and Alex Roldan complete the backline. Nicolas Benezet replaces Joao Paulo in the midfield, lining up next to Kelyn Rowe. A couple of changes up front after the Sounder’s 1-1 draw on Monday against the Galaxy, starting with Joshua Atencio replacing the ever-dangerous Nico Lodeiro as he pairs with Christian Roldan. Then leading the lines, in his return to BC Place, former Whitecap Fredy Montero. Montero racked up 26 goals in two stints for Vancouver, including two in his last game at BC Place.

Early goal gifts Seattle away lead

It took no more than six minutes into the match for the first punch to be thrown. And it landed as well. A handball off of a Seattle corner by Dajome gave Seattle a golden chance from the spot, and up stepped none other than Fredy Montero to slot home the game’s opener and give Seattle an early lead. That lead would be short-lived as a “Gauld” -en chance fell to Vancouver less than 15 minutes later, as the flying Scotsman Ryan Gauld headed home an in-swinging cross from Brian White past Frei. 24,000 rose to their feet and the two sides were level again after the opening twenty minutes. Nothing more than a couple of blocked shots rounded out the opening 45 minutes, with Seattle holding second place and Vancouver in sixth place in an ever-moving western conference.

Despite a number of half-decent chances from both sides, neither managed to deliver the final blow throughout the second half, finishing in a 1-1 draw. Vancouver Whitecaps holds on to sixth place despite late drama from LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, and book themselves a ticket to Kansas City for a date with Sporting in the first round. Meanwhile, the Sounders lost their grip of first place, sinking to second and setting up a home match with Real Salt Lake.

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