Sounders draw with Whitecaps to close regular season, finish second in Western Conference standings by one point
Nov. 7, 2021 Updated Sun., Nov. 7, 2021 at 7:11 p.m.
MLS’s top seed in the Western Conference, a first-round bye in the playoffs – all would be great parting gifts for a tough season, according to Sounders FC coach Brian Schmetzer. But he just wanted his team to win.
Seattle could have taken the postseason perks if it fulfilled their coach’s wish against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday. The Sounders had a last-ditch effort in second-half stoppage time – including a scrum in front of goal – but could only manage a 1-1 draw at BC Place.
Across the border, the Colorado Rapids shredded Los Angeles FC’s defense for a 5-2 win to overtake Seattle’s hold on the No. 1 seed. The Sounders closed the season on a six-game winless skid, the longest stretch since 2013.
Seattle is the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and will host No. 7 seed Real Salt Lake at Lumen Field. Dates and times for the MLS postseason matches are expected Monday.
And there were some gifts with the benign finish. The Sounders earned a CONCACAF Champions League berth and won the Cascadia Cup. The latter is a trophy awarded to the leader of matches between Seattle, Vancouver and the Portland Timbers.
Sounders forward Fredy Montero, who played for Vancouver last season, put his original club on the board first. He took a few deep breaths before charging into a penalty kick, using a slight hesitation to get Vancouver keeper Maxime Crépeau to guess wrong, slotting home the shot in the 8th minute.
The last time the Sounders scored the opening goal was against the Whitecaps on Oct. 9 at Lumen Field. The 4-1 finish was also the last time Seattle won a match outright.
Vancouver entered Sunday’s match more aggressive from the opening kick. The Whitecaps needed a win or tie in order to clinch their first playoff berth since 2017 and had two near chances before Montero’s score.
The equalizer came in the 20th minute. Whitecaps forward Brian White had a header attempt challenged by Nouhou. But midfielder Ryan Gauld had a step on Sounders defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade to get in position for a header on the deflection.
Schmetzer subbed forward Jordan Morris on for midfielder Josh Atencio at halftime. Morris, who played his second match since returning from an ACL injury, made runs at goal but couldn’t find an attempt.
Midfielder anchor Joao Paulo, striker Raul Ruidiaz and co-captain Nico Lodeiro were all held out due to injury. Ruidiaz and Joao Paulo, who are both dealing with hamstring injuries, did not participate in training last week. Lodeiro was part of drills but listed on the injury report as dealing with knee swelling. He had two minor surgeries this season.
Without the appearance, Ruidiaz missed an opportunity to win his first MLS Golden Boot. The honor for the league’s leading scorer went to New York City FC forward Valentín Castellanos with 19 goals. Assists are the first tiebreaker and Castellanos had eight to edged D.C. United striker Ola Kamara, who also bagged 19 goals with five assists. Ruidiaz had 17 goals.
The draw helped the Whitecaps (12-9-13) clinch postseason berth for the first time since 2017. There were 25,117 people in attendance at BC Place, the largest crowd since the pandemic hit in March 2020 due to COVID-19 safety protocols.
In the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Crew beat Seattle for the 2020 MLS Cup and didn’t qualify for the postseason this year. Former Sounders assistant Gonzalo Pineda left the post in August to become Atlanta United’s head coach led them to a postseason berth on Sunday.
The Sounders have about two weeks to prepare for a run at the club’s fifth MLS Cup final in the past six years, winning the championship in 2016 and 2019. Seattle (17-8-9) will be without a few first-choice players during the span because of international call-ups.
Sounders center back Yeimar (Colombia) joins midfielder Cristian Roldan (U.S.) and defender Nouhou (Cameroon) who’ll depart by Monday for World Cup qualifying matches for their respective countries. Teammates Alex Roldan (El Salvador) and Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) were also expected to be named to their national teams.
The games are Nov. 14-16.
Ruidiaz was already bypassed by his Peruvian national team.
USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter tagged Cristian as his “ace in the hole” during the national team’s summer run to defeating Mexico for the Gold Cup title. But Roldan only made one appearance for 22 minutes as a sub during the last round of World Cup qualifying matches.
“My mentality is always team-first, how can I help the team? How can I get better to see the field a little bit more?” Roldan said Thursday. “Overall, I understand my role. I understand there are times that I might not play games. I’m still motivated as ever to go into camp and do my part with the team.”
“Sometimes we take that for granted, right? Knowing you’re going to have a solid game, solid performance. The highs aren’t too high, the lows aren’t too low. That’s one of my characteristics – being able to play multiple positions and being reliable and trusting that I’ll get the job done.”
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