Head to Head
Seattle and Vancouver have faced each other twice this season, splitting the matchups thus far. In May, the Whitecaps grabbed a 2-0 win against the Sounders in dominant fashion. More recently in July, Seattle won 3-2 with two goals from Leo Chu and a 91st minute winner from Yeimar. In the teams' history, the Sounders have the Whitecaps number with 19 wins to their 9. The two clubs have also drawn 10 matches.
Getting Familiar with Vancouver
In their last five matches, Vancouver are 1-2-2 and are coming off a win against 1st place St. Louis City in their most recent match. However, St. Louis were starting a weaker XI with the 1st place spot in the West already clinched. The Whitecaps are only 3 points behind the Sounders, so this match alongside other results this weekend have the ability to change a lot in the standings. Vancouver's squad is healthy, but this will be their 7th match since September 16th, whereas it's only Seattle's 5th since then.
Vancouver's roster, much like every MLS roster, has it's bright spots and question marks. The strike-force of Brian White and Ryan Gauld is possibly the best in the league right now. Brian White currently has 15 goals (third in the MLS) and is wildly in-form, scoring in each of the Whitecaps' last four matches. Ryan Gauld has 12 assists (second in the MLS) and 23 total goal contributions (third in the MLS), with four goal contributions in Vancouvers last four matches.
Throughout the season, Vancouver's defense has seen some struggles holding clean sheets and keeping the ball out of their net. However, during the summer transfer window they brought in multiple defenders/midfielders to help solidify their backline. They loaned in right-sided Richie Laryea from Nottingham Forest, acquired left-back/mid Sam Adekugbe from Hatayspor in Turkey, and signed Canadian international legend and righthand side aficionado Junior Hoilett from Reading.
How The Sounders Line Up
Seattle are in truly wonderful form come the end of the season, being unbeaten in their last seven and getting three wins in that timeframe. This form comparative to Vancouver's shows at all signs of grabbing at least a point from this matchup. I think the Sounders could struggle to break down the Whitecaps' defense (especially on the wings), though I don't imagine Vancouver has the capability to score any more than two goals against Seattle's defense. It will be interesting to see what the Whitecaps do with their lineup, as they could be struggling with fitness issues.
The Sounders don't play for another two weeks after this matchup, so I expect Schmetzer to assemble another strong lineup, especially with much of the squad being healthy at this moment. We'll likely see Jordan Morris up top, Leo Chu and Christian Roldan on the wings, either Nico Lodeiro or Albert Rusnak central, and I'd prefer to see Josh Atencio paired with Joao Paulo in the midfield. Odds are that the back four will stay the same as last match with Stefan Frei in goal as always.
The Sounders can get a win on Saturday by continuing to utilize Alex Roldan on overlaps and break down Vancouver's left side. Chu looked poor on Wednesday night, but I'd like to get him the ball early on in the match and build his confidence up. We know Chu and Morris have a great connection, we just simply need to see it work successfully again. The defense should be solid as always, this match is truly a matter of getting chances on the offensive side.
What to Look Out For
1) Brian White and Ryan Gauld are undoubtedly on fire when it matters the most for this Vancouver side. It's hard to preview this match and not imagine at least one of them scoring past Seattle's reliable defense. Their form is high and their chances probably will be too.
2) Jackson Ragen has been one of the best players for the Sounders week in, week out this entire season. Ragen is an absoulte rock at the back and he faces one of his hardest tasks this season against the Whitecaps white hot striking partnership. Keep an eye out for his defensive efforts against White and Gauld, alongside his fantastic vision and ability to pass the ball.
Despite how well Vancouver's attacking has performed as of late, I know what the defense and Frei are capable of. The Sounders need to have more reliability playing the ball centrally, whether it's through Lodeiro or Rusnak to start the match. If Seattle is going to win this match, they need to come out firing like they did against the Galaxy.
Prediction: 3-1 Sounders Win with Seattle's goals from Jordan Morris (2) and Joao Paulo, and Vancouver's goal from Ryan Gauld.
What's your prediction for Saturday evening in Seattle? Will the Sounders win, draw, or lose and why? Let us know.