Leerdam TOTW
Charis Wilson

CHI Franciscan Opposition Analysis: Vancouver Whitecaps

The Sounders will wrap up the group stage with a Cascadia clash against the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 20 (7:30 p.m. PT; TUDN). With a retooled roster, the Whitecaps will hope to crash the MLS is Back Tournament party. It’s a small sample size, but they showed some signs of being an effective counter-attacking side in their opening two matches of the 2020 MLS regular season. 

Prior to departing for Orlando, Vancouver announced that five first-team players – Andy Rose, Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero, Georges Mukumbilwa and Toisant Ricketts – would not be participating in the MLS is Back Tournament.

Previous Meeting: With numerous key starters away on international duty, the Sounders fielded a heavily rotated squad for their MLS regular season matchup against the Whitecaps on June 29, 2019. The match is best remembered for then 16-year-old Homegrown Danny Leyva scoring an audacious 30-yard chip, which was mistakenly called back upon Video Review, only for Kelvin Leerdam to book a 1-0 win for Seattle with a goal in second-half stoppage time.

2020 MLS regular season record: 1-1-0 (3 points, 7th West)

2019 MLS regular season record: 8-16-10 (37 points, 12th West)

Star Player: Maxime Crepeau

Crepeau makes a flying save for Vancouver against the Montreal Impact | USA Today

Crepeau is one of the best shot-stoppers in the league. A rising star for both club and country, the Canadian international parlayed his 2018 season in the USL Championship, where he was named the Goalkeeper of the Year, into a shot with the Whitecaps at the MLS level. While Vancouver leaked goals last year, their defensive struggles can’t be pinned on Crepeau, who produced 114 saves from just 26 starts. He even set a league record for most saves in a game, with 16 stops against the San Jose Earthquakes. Don’t sleep on his distribution, either, as his wide array of passing can spark counter-attacks for the Whitecaps.

X-Factor: Inbeom Hwang

Inbeom in Vancouver's 1-0 loss to the Sounders at CenturyLink Field in June 2019 | USA Today

A tidy, clever central midfielder, Inbeom Hwang immediately catches the eye with his technique and superb passing range. Inbeom, 23, already has three goals and 23 appearances for the South Korea men’s national team, an impressive feat for his young age. While he lacked a bit of end product in his debut MLS campaign last year – he posted just three goals and five assists – he has the quality to break a game open with a single play.

Playing Style: Vancouver is a counter-attacking team to their core. The Whitecaps’ mandate in each match is clear: sit back, try to absorb pressure and hit teams in transition.  

Decisive Battle: Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer often preaches the importance of active defending, a tactical approach centered on the belief that a team’s shape when they have the ball is critical to snuffing out counter-attacks. Essentially, players should find spaces that both offer an outlet in possession and put them in a position to quickly close down opponents if they cough up the ball. With Vancouver looking to hit on the break, active defending from Seattle’s outside backs and central midfielders will be critical to the team’s success.