2017 MLS Western Semifinal Preview
Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps Picks
It's Seattle against Vancouver, the United States against Canada, and a matchup between two huge rivals. When the Whitecaps take on the Sounders it's always intense, and this two-legged semi-final tie will no doubt showcase some amazing football. Below is our fearless prediction for the outcome, followed by our in-depth preview - make sure you take a look at this so you can make an informed decision on the result.
If you had to pick a team to progress from this match prior to the Whitecaps' knockout match against San Jose, you wouldn't have hesitated in picking Seattle, who finished the season with an emphatic run and suffered just two losses in their last eighteen matches. They were the team in form, compared to a Vancouver side that had tamely surrendered their top seeding in the last three rounds.
However, Wednesday night's 5-0 demolition of the Earthquakes reminded us of why the Whitecaps were so close to the top of the Western Conference in the first place. Lethal from set pieces and solid at the back, they will be more than a match for Cascadia Cup rivals Seattle, meaning that this tie will be one of the picks of the MLS semi-finals.
So with both teams in relatively good shape, who will come out on top? As is always the case in two-legged playoffs, the first result will have a large impact on the likely outcome in the second match, so we are going to predict who we believe will progress into the Conference Final against either Portland or Houston.
With momentum on their side, and with less notable injuries, we feel that Vancouver will emerge victorious here. Read on for our full match preview.
Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps Preview
We're down to the business end of the MLS competition; by process of elimination we are down to just four teams from each conference, and two of the best regular season performers will meet over two legs starting this Sunday, October 29th. Just one point separated the Sounders and Whitecaps throughout the season, who also shared the honours in their three matches against each other. It all points to an epic Western Conference semi-final showdown.
The Seattle Sounders will be delighted with their current position. It looked like they were suffering a severe MLS Cup hangover at the midway point of the regular season, as they sat on the cusp of the playoff positions with a record of just five wins from their opening seventeen fixtures. The biggest problem was their away form - they lost six of their first nine games outside of Seattle.
History will of course show that the Sounders turned it all around in the back half of the regular season. Just two losses in the run home meant that Seattle not only made the MLS playoffs, but did so as the second seed, thereby earning a week off alongside top seed Portland. While their form was impressive, and the top-two finish a bonus, Seattle did manage a MLS Cup victory last season despite finishing in fourth place, so as long as they made the playoffs they would have to be considered a good chance at going back-to-back.
Meanwhile Vancouver did their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in their bid to finish in the top-two positions on the Western Conference standings. In first place at the end of September with a run featuring just one loss in nine games, the Whitecaps failed to win any of their last three games including a home match against lowly San Jose - a win in that match would have seen them finish top of the standings.
Instead, Vancouver were forced into the knockout round, and made up for their 1-1 draw against the Earthquakes with an emphatic 5-0 victory. They now go into the game against Seattle with perhaps slightly heavier legs, although also plenty of momentum, and this factor cannot be discounted - both of last year's MLS Cup finalists needed to overcome an elimination match in the knockout round before winning their way through to the big game.
Vancouver will likely field the same side that crushed San Jose when they take the field on Sunday night, while Seattle will be without top goalscorer Clint Dempsey following his red card against Colorado in their last regular season fixture. They will also carry plenty of injuries into the match with Jordan Morris, Brad Evans, Ozzie Alonso and Gustav Svensson all unlikely to feature.
The match will be played over two legs - game one will be played at 5:30pm local time on Sunday, October 29th, while the return leg in Seattle is scheduled for Thursday, November 2nd at 7:30pm. Home advantage always makes a considerable difference in MLS matches, and playoff fixtures are no different. Below we explore the relevant home and away statistics of each side, followed by their head to head record.
As mentioned above, Seattle's form at CenturyLink Stadium was exceptional in 2017. They finished second behind Houston in the Western Conference in terms of their home record, with eleven wins and just one defeat from their seventeen matches. Impressively, the Sounders only conceded 12 goals at home in the regular season, a record that ranked them second behind Sporting Kansas City.
Seattle's record away from home yielded just three wins, however in a league where away records are woeful across the board, this result sees them sitting in tenth in the league overall. What is important to note is that they managed to finish the season with a goal difference of -7 from their seventeen away games - while this may not sound like much of an achievement, this is the fourth best record in the MLS for 2017.
Their miserly defensive record away from home was best summed up in their 2016 MLS Cup triumph at BMO Field in Toronto. Seattle gave the Reds nothing in that match and will likely employ the same tactics when they travel to BC Place on Sunday.
While Seattle will bring a green wall to town on Sunday, Vancouver will be confident of scoring goals at home, and the five that they managed on Wednesday will give them plenty of confidence. Three of the five came from set pieces, and their ability to convert from dead ball situations has been the key to their success in 2017. If they can find success in this department on Sunday, we should see a Vancouver victory.
The Whitecaps were reasonable in front of their home fans in 2017; not including Wednesday's result they managed to win nine and lose three over the course of the regular season. It is their away form that is the most impressive - Vancouver managed six wins on the road, the best out of any side in the Western Conference. If they are to progress to the conference final, another good away performance will be essential.
Head to Head Record
Seattle and Vancouver have built up a healthy rivalry since the inception of the Cascadia Cup, which they compete for along with the Portland Timbers. In 2017, the honours were even after the three matches played between the two sides: Vancouver picked up a 2-1 victory at BC Place in April, the points were shared at the same venue in August, while Seattle picked up a comprehensive 3-0 victory at CenturyLink Field on September 27th.
The two teams have a fairly even head-to-head historical record in MLS competition. The teams have played a total of 20 times, with Seattle winning 8, Vancouver 7 and 5 draws. In Vancouver, Seattle hold the upper hand with four wins from eleven fixtures compared with the Whitecaps' three victories (four draws), while at CenturyLink Field, each side has won on four occasions.
The Whitecaps and Sounders will contest over two matches, so there are several different betting options available. You will be able to place a bet on each individual match as you normally would, with all three full-time results (win, loss and draw) available. Most sportsbooks will also allow you to place a wager on which team will progress to the next round - this will be a simple head-to-head bet with only two outcomes.
Make sure you take a look at all of our betting partners and explore the lines on offer. As always, we will keep you up to date with all the latest and provide ongoing support.
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