With another three goals, Seattle Sounders FC gained some cushion at the top of the Western Conference, three points above second place Portland, and drew within four points of Supporters Shield leading Columbus Crew SC.
At 27 points, with nine matches remaining, Seattle has their sights set on the playoffs for a 12th consecutive season. And with 2020 being the strangest year in sports history, especially in MLS where teams are playing regionalized games, without fans in most cases, to round out the regular season, the normalcy of the Sounders dominating the end of a regular season and soaring and towards the playoffs and another MLS Cup appearance feels like a warm blanket on a cold night.
Speaking of cold nights, Saturday evening at CenturyLink Field, with a thick, heavy fog descending into the lower bowl of the stadium, Seattle's red hot attack struck again, putting another three goals on the board, which marks 16 in their last five matches.
After a lackluster first half with failed chances by both the Sounders and rival Vancouver Whitecaps, Joao Paulo sent a rocket 25 yards from the corner of the 18-yard-box, past goalkeeper Brian Meredith, and into the back of the net. Seven minutes later, 'Caps defender Erik Godoy redirected a Cristian Roldan cross into the back of his own net, doubling Seattle's lead. Then in the 58th minute, Raul Ruidiaz headed in Seattle's third goal off a Nicolas Lodeiro corner that Jordan Morris flicked on.
Shortly after the Sounders slammed the door on Vancouver, a strange sequence started when Seattle defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade collided with Whitecaps forward Lucas Cavallini just outside the Sounders' box. Watch the play below.
Referee Timothy Ford initially gave Gomez Andrade a red card and awarded Vancouver a penalty. After looking at the replay with VAR for more than two minutes, Ford changed the red to a yellow card and continued with the Whitecaps penalty, which former Sounders star Fredy Montero tucked away for Vancouver's lone goal.
"After reviewing the footage at the pitch side monitor, the referee maintained his opinion that a tripping foul had occurred inside the penalty area when the left foot of Gomez made contact with the right foot of Cavallini, and as such he maintained his penalty decision. He could also see that Gomez had actually attempted to play the ball and had been close to doing so, just prior to the foul contact. As such, even though the actions of Gomez did deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, because it resulted in the award of a penalty kick and involved an attempt to play the ball, the correct outcome as per the Laws of the Game is a yellow card and as such the originally issued red card originally was rescinded and a yellow card was issued," Ford explained after the match when asked about the incident.
While Stefan Frei lost another shut-out opportunity, much like the 7-1 win over San Jose three weeks ago, the Sounders victory never fell into doubt, especially after Janio Bikel kicked Gustav Svensson in the 68th minute, saw a red card, and the Whitecaps dropped to 10 men for the remaining 22 minutes while down a pair of goals.
The Sounders finished with 22 shots to Vancouver's three, including a 9:2 radio on-target. Seattle owned 70 percent possession and out-dueled the Whitecaps 46 to 34, who also failed to take a single corner kick over the ninety minutes. In every statistical category, the Rave Green dominated. Over the final ten minutes, with the match well in hand, the Sounders would have scored a fourth goal multiple times if not for the heroics of Brian Meredith.
With four wins in their last five games, Seattle now sets their sights on Real Salt Lake, who travel to the Northwest on Wednesday for a 7:00 p.m. match against the Sounders. Salt Lake also plays Sunday against LAFC.
At 4-4-6, Real Salt Lake sits at eighth place in the Western Conference at 18 points and could be losing one of their best players, Albert Rusnak, to International Duty with Slovakia. Seattle could also be missing Raul Ruidiaz (Peru), Gustav Svensson (Sweden), and Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) for their next five matches as well.
As for Saturday night's 3-1 win over Vancouver, see all of Seattle's three goals in the entire Sounders highlight package, plus listen to KJR's Postgame Show with Jackson Felts and Danny Jackson, both below!