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Vancouver Whitecaps aim to avoid being held scoreless in Seattle

Worn down but not worn out, the Vancouver Whitecaps (5-4-3) will look to reignite their offence when they visit the Seattle Sounders (3-6-4) on Saturday. Vancouver Whitecaps forward Levonte Johnson, left, and Colorado Rapids defender Moïse Bombito pursue the ball in the first half of an MLS soccer match, in Commerce City, Colo., Wednesday, May 15, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski

VANCOUVER — Worn down but not worn out, the Vancouver Whitecaps (5-4-3) will look to reignite their offence when they visit the Seattle Sounders (3-6-4) on Saturday.

It will be their fifth match in 15 days and comes just three days after a 1-0 road loss to the Colorado Rapids.

“We don't have to hide behind it, that it's very hard physically, mentally,” said Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini about his team’s heavy recent schedule. “(Wednesday) was a game where we played well. We deserved much more than we obtained.”

Colorado’s only goal came on a penalty just before halftime when Vancouver defender Bjorn Inge Utvik was handed a red card after VAR revealed a handball inside the box that denied a goal.

That left the Whitecaps a man short for the second half. It also means Utvik will be unavailable for Saturday’s Cascadia Cup clash. The Whitecaps currently lead that regional race between Vancouver, Seattle and Portland with a record of 2-0-0.

“I think so far in the league we’ve done well against our rivals,” said defender Ryan Raposo.

The last time the Whitecaps and Sounders met, on April 20, Seattle was playing two men down by the 75th minute at Lumen Field after red cards were shown to Jackson Ragen and Alex Roldan. During their one-man advantage, Vancouver received goals from Ryan Gauld and Brian White to seal a 2-0 win.

“We know what the atmosphere is going to be like,” Raposo said. “They were unlucky to go down to nine men. They’re going to want that back.”

White scored Vancouver’s last goal in MLS play on April 27, 15 minutes into a 1-1 road draw against the New York Red Bulls.

Since then, the Whitecaps have been shut out by Austin FC, LAFC and the Rapids.

“We had a lot of chances in the last three, four games,” Sartini said. “We just need to keep working, keep having it, and the quality will be back very soon.”

Levonte Johnson, the Whitecaps’ 2023 MLS SuperDraft selection, was the last player to score in any competition, with two goals in Vancouver’s 2-1 win over Cavalry FC in Canadian Championship play on May 7.

On Wednesday, he earned his first MLS start of the year against the Rapids.

“Unfortunately, because we were 10 men, we had to go in different tactical settings and we had to sub him,” Sartini said. “But he did really well and almost scored again. We planned everything to have at least one opportunity; he actually had three because that was the way that we wanted to exploit the defence.”

Despite the recent scoring outage, the Whitecaps remain in a playoff position, sitting seventh in the MLS Western Conference with 18 points in 12 games. The Sounders rank 10th, with 13 points in 13 games. They’re 1-1-3 on their home pitch, while Vancouver is 3-2-1 on the road this season.


Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT, Lumen Field (TSN, Apple TV)

SEE YOU SOON — The season series will wrap up when the Sounders visit BC Place Stadium on Oct. 2.

ON THE MEND — Sartini expects injured forward Damir Kreilach to be available for selection by next weekend. Defender Sam Adekugbe is likely sidelined until June.

HOME SWEET HOME — After Saturday’s match, the Whitecaps return to BC Place to host Cavalry FC for the second leg of their Canadian Championship quarterfinal on Tuesday. Then, more than 50,000 fans are expected as Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami makes its first-ever visit to Vancouver on May 25. All eyes are on the superstar after he missed Miami’s match against Orlando City on Wednesday with a suspected leg injury. He participated in training on Friday but his status remains uncertain for Miami’s Saturday home match against D.C. United.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2024.

Carol Schram, The Canadian Press

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