The Seattle Sounders are visiting the rival Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (7:30 p.m. PT; MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360AM) in their first meeting of the season. Here are three matchups to watch:
Nicolás Lodeiro vs. Andrés Cubas
It will be a battle between former teammates in the center of midfield on Saturday as the Uruguayan Lodeiro goes head-to-head with Paraguayan Cubas. Lodeiro has five assists this season to lead the Sounders, and so much of Seattle’s attack is run through him. He’ll look to fill small pockets of space in between defenders to try and turn and spring runners in behind. Cubas, who played with Lodeiro on Argentine giants Boca Juniors from 2015-16, has established himself as one of the league’s best ball-winning defensive midfielders since his arrival last year.
João Paulo vs. Julian Gressel
The Sounders will need their own defensive midfielder in João Paulo to shut down service from right-sided central midfielder Gressel. JP is one of the best two-way midfielders in MLS, and his main responsibility will be making life uncomfortable for Gressel. The German is third in MLS in Expected Assists this season, and his service into the box is among the best in the league. The less Gressel sees of the ball, the fewer opportunities Vancouver will have in dangerous attacking positions.
Yeimar vs. Brian White
Yeimar still very much leads this Sounders defense that, despite allowing two goals midweek against Austin FC, is still conceding less than a goal per game with just 11 through 13 matches. White has the highest Expected Goals of any player in MLS this season, but he has only found the back of the net four times. He’s underperforming in the finishing department, but he’s an active, high-volume opportunist who is constantly popping up in the right places in the box.