VANCOUVER, B.C. — Don’t call it a bubble burst.
Mathematicians and Sounders hopefuls will spout every cliché in stating there is still a chance the most successful MLS franchise over the last decade can advance to a record 14th consecutive postseason appearance. But the percentage is low.
What was tangible Saturday at BC Place were two hard-hitting goals from Vancouver. The only strikes needed to give the Whitecaps a 2-1 win against the Sounders and drop the Cascadia rival to 10th in Western Conference standings.
“Winning the rivalry game, beating the best team on the continent, they won the Champions League,” Vancouver coach Vanni Sartini said. “The performance was amazing. We should’ve won 4-0.”
Fredy Montero squatted in the middle of the field as majority of the 19,722 in attendance celebrated with the Vancouver players. The Colombian, who played three seasons for the Whitecaps, was subbed on at halftime to create some offensive magic for the Sounders.
There was a flicker in the 89th minute. Montero sent a cross from outside the box toward forward Will Bruin, who was subbed on in the 72nd minute, for the Sounders’ opening goal.
Bruin hustled to dig the ball out of the net for the restart and teammate Kelyn Rowe almost equalized in the 90th minute. Vancouver keeper Thomas Hasal was able to smother the low dribbling left-footed attempt.
Referee Ramy Touchan signaled four minutes of stoppage time. The Sounders missed two more opportunities to equalize.
“If we scored the goal, 10 minutes earlier, five minutes earlier, we could’ve got another one,” Montero said of his thoughts as he squatted with his head down long after the final whistle. “We put ourselves in this situation. Now the point is to lift our heads, recognize that (Saturday) was not great, but we need to recover and know that the next three points are absolutely vital for us to keep the mathematical chance to go into the playoffs.”
Montero was greeted with some faint jeering when his name was announced. He said he hates losing to friends. Saturday was not only a loss, but Vancouver’s first against the Sounders since 2017, and the Whitecaps (11-14-7) were able to keep their season alive with the result, moving up to ninth place — three points below the playoff line.
The Sounders are four points back.
“The good news is we still have the mathematical chance,” Montero said.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer started the same lineup that stacked home wins against Houston and Austin the last two outings. The team hasn’t strung together a three-game win streak this season and hasn’t won on the road since July.
The Sounders were out of position and slow to react when the Whitecaps pushed for their opening goal in the 29th minute. Midfielder Pedro Vite had the left-footed finish from a Ryan Gauld assist.
For the second goal, Sounders defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade was pinned between two Whitecaps players for a throw-in play. He appeared to head the ball away, but it went into space. Vancouver midfielder Julian Gressel charged to volley a right-footed shot into the net. Sounders keeper Stefan Frei reached for the save, tumbling into the post.
“They didn’t throw anything at us that was unexpected,” Schmetzer said. “Once they scored the goal, I felt our team played a little bit undisciplined after we went down 1-0. Certainly at 2-0 down, players were so driven to try and do something to try and get us back in the game but actually hurt us. … I don’t want this to sound like we’re just blaming this loss on a couple of defensive lapses. But certainly away from home in MLS you have to play for a clean sheet.”
The Sounders (12-16-3) host FC Cincinnati on Sept. 27. They typically don’t play during FIFA international windows but will do so this time because the match was rescheduled as a courtesy during their successful CONCACAF Champions League run.
International forwards Jordan Morris (U.S.), Raul Ruidiaz (Peru), defenders Nouhou (Cameroon), Alex Roldan (El Salvador) and Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) and midfielder Albert Rusnak could be missing for the FCC match. Schmetzer said there are discussions for Roldan, Ruidiaz, and Rusnak to remain in Seattle because their nations didn’t qualify for the Qatar men’s World Cup and wouldn’t be playing tune up games.
“We’ll sort that out when we get back to Seattle,” Schmetzer said. “Having Raul for the Cincinnati game would be massive for us. Maybe he plays (the international match) in California and comes back home, we’ll see.”
The Sounders will definitely be without co-captain Nico Lodeiro against Cincinnati because of yellow-card accumulation. He was shown one in the 81st minute on Saturday.