ANALYSIS- The Vancouver Whitecaps bounced back from their earlier defeats this month with an emphatic 2-0 victory over Cascadian rivals Seattle Sounders at BC Place that could have resulted in a greater scoreline. Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini came out with a blast from the past in tactics and it proved to be enough to sweep past a floundering Seattle side that has been struggling as of late. With plenty of Cascadian Cup action, here are our three takeaways from Whitecaps’ cruise-control victory over Seattle.
Three Takeaways: Whitecaps Emphatic In Win
#1: Old Tricks Still Work For Vanni Sartini
Quite a few eyebrows were raised after the starting lineup was announced for this match for the Whitecaps, as the line-up was organized in a 3-4-2-1 formation instead of the classic Christmas tree formation of 4-3-2-1 that we have been used to this season. Sartini after the match explained that this tactical tweak, going back to the formation that dominated the Whitecaps’ play last season in the MLS, was because of personnel issues. “It was mostly because of the fact that Julian [Gressel] and [Alessandro] Schopf were on the bench”.
Never mind the reason for the change, in the actual game it did wonders. The double pivot of Sebastian Berhalter and Andres Cubas made it so that the Whitecaps were in control of the middle of the pitch for the majority of the match. The player who perhaps thrived the most of this change was the American Berhalter, as he was so effective as that hybrid 6/8 in this formation. He not only defended well alongside the bloodhound that is Andres Cubas, but he was also integral in the attack as his runs allowed the Whitecaps to overload the half-spaces and open up avenues for the wide players.
In truth, everyone performed admirably in this formation, with new players like Ali Ahmed and Mathias Laborda slotting in perfectly at right wing-back and centre-back, respectively. It will remain to be seen if Sartini will try to replicate the success he had that night in the future by employing this formation more often.
Our 𝙎𝙏𝘼𝙍𝙏𝙄𝙉𝙂 𝙓𝙄 vs @soundersfc 🔉
Kickoff is set for 7:39pm PT on #MLSSeasonPass on the @appletv app & @AM730Traffic 📺#VWFC| #VANvSEA pic.twitter.com/MTVcXZC0iT
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 21, 2023
#2: Seattle Struggle Once Again
It seems incredulous to think that until LAFC scored a last-minute penalty, Seattle Sounders were still top of the table. After their terrific start to the season, they seem to be going through a bit of a rough patch right now. With only one win now in their last five, this current run of form could threaten to unravel all the hard-work they did at the start.
It was just not a good day at the office for many Sounders players. Jordan Morris, who began the season in red-hot form by finding eight goals in his first six games, hasn’t found the net since scoring against Galaxy on April 1st. He was snuffed out many times thanks to the marking of Luis Martins and Tristan Blackmon in the first half, and so he switched to his favoured left side in the second half. However, the switch would not provide fruit as Ali Ahmed and Javain Brown did the same, resulting in him coming off in the 64-minute.
Meanwhile former Whitecaps player Fredy Montero only touched the ball a handful of times in the first half, as he was basically invisible for a majority of the match. Nico Lodeiro and Albert Rusnak did their best to get things going, but were often crowded by a sea of white and so could not influence the match as much as they would have wanted. Sounders fans will hope that Brian Schmetzer can figure out a way to turn this team around before the start plummeting down the table, and risk losing that home play-off spot come October.
Final from Vancouver. pic.twitter.com/BX5KQZfgVf
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) May 21, 2023
#3: All That Glitters Is Ryan Gauld
While there were many candidates for player of the match for this Whitecaps side, like Luis Martins and Mathias Laborda, there was one player who outshone the rest: Ryan Gauld. The Scottish magician was back to his brilliant best, pulling the strings from a more liberated role. He had four key passes that match, and created four chances as well, the most out of any player in the match.
He just felt more comfortable in this match, roaming around more and having more support from out wide with the wingbacks. His connection with Pedro Vite and Brian White showed shades of their victory over Seattle last September, in the same sort of formation. He even got involved with the goals, as his shot rebounded of the post, and then off the back of keeper Stefan Frei to trickle in. Although officially ruled as an own-goal as of writing this, it still shows stark improvements for the Scot as he has been through a bit of a dry spell in goals and assists so far this season.
With so many games still upcoming, hopefully Gauld can continue this fine form and inspire his team to climb further up the table in the weeks to come.
OG’s force OG’s 😤
Midfielder Ryan Gauld is your @GE_Appliances Player of Quality for #VANvSEA #VWFC pic.twitter.com/hiIMNkrA3M
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 21, 2023
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports on May 20, 2023, of Ryan Gauld Headshot and Josh Atencio Headshot.