The Seattle Sounders suffered a damaging though not fatal blow to their playoff hopes on Saturday night as they lost 2-1 to their Cascadia rivals.
This is not how it's meant to go for the Seattle Sounders, a team with an MLS-record 13 consecutive playoff qualifications. However, following Saturday's 2-1 loss in Vancouver, the impressive streak looks all but over.
As a result of the defeat, the Sounders find themselves four points outside a playoff spot with just three games remaining. They are below both the Whitecaps and Timbers in the Western Conference and will finish last in the Cascadia Cup standings for the first time since 2016.
While it's not mathematically impossible yet, failing to qualify for the playoffs would see another two streaks end for the Sounders. Since joining MLS in 2009, they have never finished lower than fourth in the Western Conference or seventh in the Supporters' Shield standings.
Prior to this season, if Sounders fans were asked to chose between winning the CONCACAF Champions League or qualifying for the playoffs, they would have taken the former. However, this doesn't make it much easier for them to accept the likely end of a proud MLS-record run.
In truth, the writing has been on the wall for quite a while in Seattle. Including Saturday's game, the Rave Green have gone 5-10-1 in their past 16 league games.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday's bitter defeat.
3. A false sense of control
Yes, the Sounders have endured a lot of bad luck, including injuries and conceding late goals. However, there's been more to it, as exemplified against the Whitecaps.
While Seattle dominated with essentially two-thirds of the possession and a 21-7 edge in crosses, it doesn't count for much if you don't carve out quality chances. The Whitecaps created more attempts on target and were more clinical in front of goal.
The result was a 2-0 lead for the home side at half-time, courtesy of goals from Pedro Vite and Julian Gressel. Vite's effort came about in part to sloppy play and bad positioning by the Seattle defense, while Gressel scored a spectacular volley.
The Sounders continued to control the tempo -- in a manner of speaking -- and push forward, but they just couldn't penetrate the Whitecaps' rear guard. In fact Vancouver could have easily made it 3-0 in the second half courtesy of Leonard Owusu, but his long-range strike hit the post.
By the time Seattle did finally score, there were 89 minutes on the clock. Fredy Montero crossed for fellow substitute Will Bruin to head home at the far post, but it was too little, too late.
2. A number of unwanted records
With the loss, the Sounders failed to equal the MLS record for most consecutive games without a defeat to an opponent (including playoffs). In addition, their 16 losses in league play are the most they've ever suffered in a single season.
The previous club mark prior to this season was 14 defeats. Of greater concern, no team has ever qualified for the MLS playoffs with more than 15 losses.
Speaking to the media afterwards, head coach Brian Schmetzer was asked if the Whitecaps threw anything unexpected at his team and responded:
"I believe that we didn't quite match their intensity; that was part of it in the first half. It may be singular in those two plays (i.e. the goals). The game itself, we start off with decent possession, but were our goal-scoring chances really that good? Maybe not, but we had some half-chances.... then once they scored, I felt our team played a little bit undisciplined at 1-0, and certainly at 2-0."- Brian Schmetzer
Also speaking to the media afterwards, forward Will Bruin was asked for his take on what went wrong on the night. He said:
"Obviously it's not the result we wanted or expected. We put up some fight at the end, but at that point you're putting yourself in a position of just putting balls in the box. I just don't think we were as threatening on goal as we know we can be. "- Will Bruin
1. The potential season-decider
Most people won't question focusing on the CONCACAF Champions League this year. To become the first ever MLS team to win this version of the tournament made it a worthwhile endeavor.
However, the continued cost of that pursuit will be evident when the Sounders next play on Sept. 27 against FC Cincinnati, a game that had to be re-scheduled as a result of Seattle's Champions League campaign.
The game will now take place during what was originally a league break for international games. As a result, the Sounders will be without several of their key players including Jordan Morris, Xavier Arreaga, and Nouhou.
The Rave Green could also be without Raul Ruidiaz, Albert Rusnak and Alex Roldan. However, it is worth noting the Sounders are asking for the trio to remain in Seattle due to their respective international teams not qualifying for the World Cup.
Regardless -- and again as if to sum up how everything is going wrong at the moment -- the Sounders will definitely be missing Nicolas Lodeiro after he received a yellow card for a late tackle on Gressel.
What is your main takeaway from the game in Vancouver? Have you accepted the Sounders will not make the playoffs this season, or do you still have genuine hope they can qualify? Let us know in the comments section below.