Brian Schmetzer is hoping that Vancouver Whitecaps’ “new-guy bump” does not derail Seattle Sounders’ quest to finish top of the Western Conference standings.
The Caps have won four, drawn two and lost just one of their seven matches since Vanni Sartini replaced head coach Marc Dos Santos on an interim basis at the end of August.
That improved run of form has lifted Vancouver within a point of the playoffs and has Schmetzer, whose Seattle side are two points clear at the top of the West, a little concerned.
“You get that new-guy bump, although Marc started that little run that they had,” Schmetzer said. “It was unfortunate, the loss to Pacific FC, that’s what got him the sack.
“But Vancouver have been playing well for a while, so they will be a tough team to face.”
Sartini’s men beat San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 last time out and now travel to Lumen Field on Saturday to face a Sounders side on a three-game winning run.
If the Caps are to pull off a surprise result this weekend, Sartini accepts it will have to be a collective effort.
“In a lot of aspects of life, and especially soccer, nobody can achieve something by themselves,” he said.
“I fully believe that for individuals to shine, you have to contribute to the group you’re part of. That’s how you help.
“The first thought has to be the team every time; only then can you think of the individuals. But I don’t think this group is about any individual.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Seattle Sounders FC – Stefan Frei
Sounders keeper Frei is one clean sheet short of moving into sole possession of third place in the list of all-time shutouts in MLS with 87.
The 35-year-old has a save percentage of 87.2 this season, which is the best return of anyone to have played more than two games in 2021.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC – Brian White
The Caps have added goals to their game under Sartini, having netted 11 times across his seven games – six of those coming courtesy of White.
That includes a hat-trick against the Quakes last time out, the former New York Red Bulls forward tying his career-high goals tally with nine in total this campaign.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Including playoff games, Seattle are unbeaten in 12 straight matches against Vancouver (W8 D4) dating back to August 2017. The 12-game span is Vancouver’s longest winless run against any opponent in MLS and Seattle’s third-longest unbeaten run (14 straight v San Jose from 2015-21 and Chivas USA from 2009-14).
– The Sounders have won seven of their last nine matches (L2), including the last three in a row. Seattle have scored three times in consecutive games after scoring three or more goals just once in its previous 22 MLS matches (6-1 at Portland on August 15).
– The Whitecaps are unbeaten in a club-record eight straight away matches but have managed to win just one of those (D7). Vancouver are the second team to draw seven times in a span of eight away matches in MLS history along with the Red Bulls in May-July 2011 (L1).
– Fredy Montero has scored eight goals in this rivalry, split evenly between the two teams. Montero has scored four times in six games for Seattle against Vancouver and four times in nine games for Vancouver against Seattle.
– White scored the fourth hat-trick in the Whitecaps’ MLS history against San Jose last week. White has scored Vancouver’s last five goals with no other Whitecaps player finding the net in MLS play since September 4.