Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps Picks
The Cascadia Cup comes to Florida, and it features two teams who badly need to find a victory if they're going to do anything in this tournament. For Vancouver, it's only match No. 2 of the tournament after their first match got postponed because of too many positive COVID-19 tests from FC Dallas, so the Whitecaps still have time if they do take a defeat here. Not so for Seattle, which finds itself facing elimination from the tournament after allowing Chicago to control the second half of their last match, leaving the champions on just one point in two games.
But Seattle now gets the opponent they need if they're looking for some momentum, as the past three years between these two Cascadia rivals have been one-way traffic. Vancouver hasn't beaten Seattle since 2017, losing five times in their previous seven meetings and winning just twice in their past 15 matchups. Can the Sounders continue that success and reach the knockout stages, or will Vancouver take advantage of a side that doesn't seem to want to be here?
Last Time Out:
The Sounders lost 2-1 to Chicago; the Whitecaps lost 4-3 to San Jose.
Seattle beat Vancouver 1-0 on June 29, 2019, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
When the Sounders are on their game, their attack is one of the most feared in MLS. With Nicolas Lodeiro setting up the likes of Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris, opposing defenses just have no answer for the Seattle attack when everything is clicking. But that's been the problem in Florida: the attack hasn't been there. Handwalla Bwana's goal in the 77th minute against Chicago is the Sounders' only marker, as otherwise, Seattle has been on the back foot and hasn't seemed to want to play at its usual high level.
With the attack MIA, the Sounders' defense has had to step up, which hasn't always worked out all that well. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei is one of the best in MLS, but the defense in front of him is a tad shaky. A miscue from Xavier Arreaga set up an easy Chicago goal that took Seattle out of its game plan, and the Sounders have had to rely on Frei far more often than they should have in the first two games of the group stage. Then again, the same San Jose side that put home four goals against Vancouver couldn't crack the Sounders' defense even once, so things might not be as bad as they seem for the Rave Green.
No team is as hampered in this tournament as the Whitecaps, who are down the likes of forwards Lucas Cavallini and Tosaint Ricketts and midfielder Fredy Montero. Yet Vancouver still managed to put three into the net against San Jose and its unique defensive style. But it didn't matter because the Vancouver defense couldn't hold the lead, eventually giving up the winner in stoppage time after twice blowing a two-goal lead to the Earthquakes.
If Vancouver can get off to a hot start again, good things are likely to follow. The Whitecaps got the match's first two goals (granted, one was an own goal) by pressing the issue and causing problems for the San Jose backline, and the Sounders' defense has proven to be fairly precarious as well. Vancouver should get shots on target against Seattle, but it's a real question as to whether the Whitecaps will be confident in their shooting touch against Frei. Vancouver was scoreless against Seattle last season, and the Whitecaps have scored just one goal in their past seven meetings with the Sounders. Without their best attackers, can Vancouver find the edge it needs to finally solve Frei?
Dan's Best Bets:
These teams tend to play low-scoring, gritty matches that don't feature a lot of chances. That might work for Vancouver, but if Seattle cares at all about its standing in this tournament, that won't work for their needs. Seattle must win this match if it's to have any hope of reaching the knockout stage, while Vancouver could sneak through with a draw if it then beats Chicago in the final Group B match.
Because of recent history, I'm going to back Seattle to win this match to nil at +175. I'm a little worried about how motivated the Sounders really are for this match, but one thing that Seattle doesn't do as of late is lose to Vancouver. Plus, even if the Sounders aren't that motivated to win MLS is Back, there's plenty of motivation to not lose to one of its two Cascadia rivals and to avoid being bottom of Group B. From a Seattle perspective, going out to Toronto or New England in the knockout stage is far more palatable to finishing last in Group B.
If you want to get daring, you might consider backing the Sounders to win under 2.5 goals. Five of the last six meetings between the rivals have featured two goals or less, and Seattle's offense is talented enough to control the match and make it a "first goal wins" affair if it wants to do so. If you just want to get a solid bet at even money, I like the idea of playing the under straight. I know Vancouver just exploded for three goals, but with these teams' history, I think the under makes complete sense.
Finally, if you're of the mindset that Seattle really doesn't want to be here and don't want to touch the match, play both teams to score at -125. The Sounders have scored in 13 of 15 meetings with Vancouver, and the two exceptions were both 0-0 scorelines. There's no value at all in expecting Vancouver to keep a clean sheet here.
Dan's Score Prediction:
This is where Raul Ruidiaz tends to be at his best, and if the Sounders decide to do the same thing, they should have no problem taking care of a weakened Vancouver side. I don't think +775 is an excellent return for this scoreline, but it's good enough, so I'll jump on the Sounders to control this match for a 2-0 win that lands them in the knockout stage.