PORTLAND, Ore. — The road to the playoffs got a little rockier for the Vancouver Whitecaps Tuesday night.
Playing their second game in 72 hours, the 'Caps dropped a 2-0 decision to the Seattle Sounders.
With the result, Seattle became the first team to clinch a playoff spot in Major League Soccer's congested Western Conference.
It also made Vancouver's playoff dreams a bit more hazy.
But with two games left in the regular season, the club isn't giving up, said midfielder Russell Teibert.
“We’ve had to deal with adversity all season long and I don’t think you’ve seen the mentality shift in our squad," he said after Tuesday's loss. "You’ve seen a team that’s always prepared to go out and fight. And we’ll look to keep fighting for the remainder of the season.”
Despite the final result, Vancouver (8-13-0) was strong through the first half Tuesday, playing a high press that largely kept Seattle out of the penalty area.
The Sounders finished the first half with six shots, but only one was on target.
"We were able to frustrate them, not giving them space, bringing the game to where I wanted it to go," Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos said of his team's defensive effort across the first 45 minutes.
The Sounders (10-4-5) amped up their offence in the second half, putting away two goals in six minutes.
Raul Ruidiaz opened the scoring the 54th minute, hammering in a cross from Nouhou Tolo. The goal was called offside but went to video review, where referee Fotis Bazakos overturned the decision and confirmed the Sounders' 1-0 lead.
Dos Santos was "frustrated" with the call, saying after the game that the angles he had seen did not show a clear and obvious reason for overturning the call on the field.
Defender Derek Cornelius said the strike had an impact on the 'Caps.
“That one really hurts us," he said.
Ruidiaz helped out in the 60th minute, too, getting around Vancouver defender Ranko Veselinovic and putting the ball at the feet of Nicolas Lodeiro.
Lodeiro cut back and popped a shot in past a diving 'Caps 'keeper Evan Bush for his sixth goal of the year.
“Their weapons made it hard on us," Dos Santos said. “We knew it would be hard for us tonight based on all the circumstances.”
The coach said playing such a condensed schedule forced his lineup decisions.
Some of his players didn't recover on time to suit up against Seattle and concerned about injuries, Dos Santos had just four players from Saturday's starting 11 on the field at kick off Tuesday.
“It’s not what I wanted, it’s what I had to do," he said. “I don’t think we were playing on the same ground (as Seattle) in terms of recovery. I’m very frustrated that this game had to be played in a schedule like that.”
Offensive threats Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero and Cristian Dajome were all on the bench to start Tuesday's game. The trio all came in early in the second half, a move that Dos Santos said was aimed at sparking some offence.
"It just sucks that you have to prepare a game in a different way due to recovery and due to time," he said.
Historically, the Sounders have fared well against the 'Caps. Vancouver last won a matchup between the two sides in April 2017, with Seattle taking seven wins and two draws across the stretch.
The Sounders are also the reigning MLS Cup champions, and have a solid chance at contending for the title again this season.
“Overall, it was always going to be a tough game coming up against a very good team in Seattle, a team that’s played together for a few years now," Cornelius said. "So we can’t hang our heads too long. We have another important game on the weekend that we all need to focus for and be ready for.”
The Whitecaps still held a playoff position Tuesday night, sitting the seventh spot in the West. The top eight teams will make the post-season.
Vancouver is in for a fight to the end, however. The club was within three points of six other teams Tuesday night, including three above them in the table and three below.
The Whitecaps' next chance to collect points will come Sunday when they face the Portland Timbers.
NOTES: Seattle goalie Stefan Frei did not have to make a save to collect his sixth clean sheet of the season. … Ruidiaz made his first start since Oct. 3. The Peruvian had been sidelined after contracting COVID-19 while on duty with his national team. … The Sounders have been the stingiest team in the MLS Western Conference this season, giving up just 18 goals so far this year. The Whitecaps have conceded 43.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2020.
The Canadian Press