SEATTLE — A rough 15-minute stretch was the downfall for the Vancouver Whitecaps once again on Saturday.
After a strong first half saw the 'Caps (5-10-0) hold off the offensively gifted Seattle Sounders, Vancouver faltered coming out of the locker room and was never able to recover.
Ultimately, the Whitecaps dropped a 3-1 decision to the home team, extending the club's losing skid to three games.
“When the opponent scores first, it looks like it’s a huge mountain for us to climb," coach Marc Dos Santos said after the game. "And I think that we have to grow in our confidence and grow in making sure that we respond well when we concede.”
The victory marked Seattle's fourth win in five games and gave the Sounders (8-3-3) sole possession of first place in Major League Soccer's Western Conference.
Vancouver's trouble started in the 46th minute when Seattle's Joao Paulo beat Whitecaps 'keeper Bryan Meredith with a right-footed shot from outside the penalty box.
The Sounders widened the lead in the 53rd following a cross from Cristian Roldan. Meredith got a piece of the pass but couldn't control the ball. Instead, it hit a stationary Godoy in front of the Vancouver net and bounced in for an own goal.
Seattle went up 3-0 six minutes later when a ball hit Jordan Morris in the back off a corner, then bounced to Raul Ruidiaz. The Peruvian headed in for his 30th goal in a Sounders jersey.
“The whole sequence of those three goals was really frustrating. Because they were avoidable, without a doubt," said Vancouver midfielder Andy Rose.
The Whitecaps responded to Seattle's third goal quickly, sending Lucas Cavallini streaking down the field alone.
The Canadian striker was taken out by Yeimar Gomez Andrade before getting a shot off, and referee Timothy Ford whistled down the play, showing Andrade the red card. His call was overturned after a video review determined that the play took place outside of the penalty area.
Andrade was given a yellow instead and the 'Caps retained the penalty kick.
Fredy Montero scored on the opportunity, snapping Vancouver's two-game goalless streak.
The Whitecaps' ability to generate offence was hindered in the 68th minute, however, after defender Janio Bikel was ejected on a red card for catching Gustav Svennson in the chest with his studs.
Responding to in-game adversity has been a struggle for the Whitecaps recently.
Vancouver gave up four goals in a 14 minute stretch en route to an ugly 6-0 thrashing by Los Angeles FC last month. Last week, the club couldn't find the back of the net after the Portland Timbers scored in the fifth minute, and the 'Caps were handed a 1-0 loss.
More offensive plays could be the key to turning things around for the squad, Rose said.
Vancouver barely tested Seattle's Stefan Frei on Saturday, forcing the 'keeper to make just one save.
Meredith stopped 7-of-9 on-target shots for the 'Caps.
“The more chances you create, the more opportunities you have to get into the opposition’s final third, the more belief you build that you can get back into games," Rose said.
Holding on to the ball could also help, said defender Derek Cornelius.
Seattle controlled nearly 70 per cent of possession on Saturday and outshot the Whitecaps 22-to-3.
"I think as a group, we need to find a way to keep the ball more to relieve us of some pressure in certain moments, in key moments of the game," Cornelius said. "Because I think when we do that, it gives the other team less chances to get these sort of bounces.”
The 'Caps are working hard on defence, he added, but some of that energy might be better used in other areas of the game.
“Right now, I think we’re doing so much work in the defensive aspect that it’s almost negatively affecting us when we have the ball because maybe we’re tired and we make poor decisions or we don’t have the energy to open up or create the space," Cornelius said.
The Whitecaps will have a shot at redemption on Wednesday when they visit the San Jose Earthquakes.
NOTES: Bikel and Cavallini will both miss Wednesday's game due to suspensions. … Whitecaps medical staff did not clear midfielder Leonard Owusu or defender Cristian Gutierrez to play on Saturday. The pair join goalkeepers Maxime Crepeau and Thomas Hasal, and midfielder Russell Teibert on Vancouver's injured list. … Vancouver's starting lineup featured three former Sounders. Montero, Meredith and Rose all previously played for Seattle.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2020.
The Canadian Press