Seattle Sounders beat Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night to keep up their excellent form and condemn the visitors to their fourth straight defeat. Once João Paulo had opened the scoring at the start of the second half, Erik Godoy's own goal and Raul Ruidiaz put the Sounders in control of the match, with Fredy Montero pulling back a consolation goal from the penalty spot.
Story of the match
As the game got underway, it was noticeable that the Whitecaps had fielded their oldest starting XI of the year so far, with an average age of 27.63. Ruidiaz gave away a foul after two seconds for tussling with an opposition player the set the tone of the game from the off - but the first half really did have no real moments of quality, and neither side had any real chances to take the lead or to get a foothold in the game.
That all changed once the second half kicked off, though. After only a minute, Cristian Roldan did well on the right hand side and crossed into the box. The Whitecaps scrambled the ball away, only for João Paulo to take a touch and fire in from 25 yards out with a spectacular opening goal. His shot left Whitecaps goalkeeper Brian Meredith with no chance and that was the spark that the game needed to explode into life.
It was Seattle's number seven who proved to be the dangerman again less than ten minutes later. Roldan whipped in a cross and both Meredith and Godoy stood helplessly as the ball deflected off the defender and past the goalkeeper with Ruidiaz on the prowl behind them. That made it 2-0 and from then on, Vancouver had a mountain to climb if they were to get back into the game.
It got worse for the visitors on 58 minutes. A Seattle corner was flicked on by Jordan Morris for Ruidiaz to head in for 3-0, and it looked like becoming a rout for the Rave Greens.
However, the Whitecaps showed they had some fight and were back in the game with 25 to play. Montero - a former Sounders hero - put an excellent through ball in behind the defense for Lucas Cavallini to run onto. Yeimar Gomez was the backtracking defender, and when Cavallini went to ground in the area, many were surprised when the referee Timothy Ford blew for a penalty. The attacker seemed to go down in stages, and the red card shown to Gomez seemed harsh. However, after a VAR check, the red card was downgraded to a yellow. Montero dispatched his penalty to make it 3-1 and give the Whitecaps some hope.
Any hopes of a comeback, though, were dashed minutes later. Janio Bikel kicked into Gustav Svensson in a tackle and the referee had no hesitation in pulling out the red card to reduce the Whitecaps to ten men and extinguish any chance of them pulling a second goal back. That was how it finished, and Seattle march on in excellent form and condemned the Whitecaps to their fourth defeat in five games.
Takeaways from the match
This game promised much on paper, but seemed to be stuck in neutral for most of the first half. However, the second half was when the action arrived. It started with João Paulo’s opener, before two more breaches of Meredith's net happened before the hour mark. The three-goal haul continued a recent theme for Seattle, which has shown a golden streak within games when they suddenly click into place and look lethal going forward.
The game hinged on two decisions, however. First was the penalty just after the hour mark. Originally the referee sent off Gomez for his challenge on Cavallini, but a VAR review downgraded his punishment to a booking. The penalty still stood, however. If that decision had not been reversed, it may have given the Whitecaps some hope of salvaging an unlikely draw - until Bikel went recklessly in on Svensson. That moment of madness saw the Whitecaps' momentum killed and they must improve quickly if they are to start moving up the Western Conference, which Seattle now top.
Despite not getting on the scoresheet, Cristian Roldan was the stand-out in this Pacific North West derby. The American international possibly could have scored himself, but his work on the right wing was a major threat all game, and his crosses helped create Seattle's first and second goals.
Fredy Montero produced a cool penalty on 65 minutes and looked sharp on the ball in flashes, and Sounders fans will have been nervous that the once fan's favorite would come back to haunt them. It wasn't to be, however, as the Sounders never really looked like conceding other than Montero's panenka.
Seattle Sounders: Frei; Leerdam (A Roldan 76'), Gómez, Arreaga, Tolo ( Smith 73'); Svensson (Delem 73'), 6.João Paulo (Atencio 89'); C Roldan, Lodeiro ©, Morris; Ruidíaz (Bruin 76').
Substitutes not used: Cleveland, Ibarra, O'Neill.
Vancouver Whitecaps: Meredith; Nerwinski, Godoy, Cornelius, Adnan; Dájome (Metcalfe 75'), Bikel, Rose (Baldisimo 65'), Milinković (Raposo 65'); Montero©, (Bair 75'), Cavallini (Ricketts 89').
Substitutes not used: Bush, Boehmer, Veselinović, Pecile.