Vancouver Whitecaps

Three questions with Soccer Talk Vancouver

There's a team in the Upper Left doing special things. Powered by a coach who has fully embraced his city, they are team lacking top tier stars putting up the best goal differential in the league – yes, ahead of Inter Messi.

That team? The Vancouver Whitecaps, who come to Seattle on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. PDT on MLS Season Pass). Now, the Sounders have a long history of success over Vancouver, having only two losses in their 19 meetings in all competitions. But past history is not an indicator of future success.

Vancouver amplified their squad not by signing DPs, but with steady additions from within the league. Their style is a ball-management 3-4-3 that attacks via through balls and set pieces. They aren't pacey, but do put up good attacking numbers. They also have a solid defense.

Both sides are in the top quadrant of attack and defense for G+ in the early season. The primary difference is that the Whitecaps are a team of finishers and the Sounders are not.

Answering Three Questions for Soccer Talk Vancouver is Simon Fudge.

SaH: Vancouver's offseason additions were mostly free agent veterans from within the league. Who has made the biggest contribution to the hot start?

STV: I would say Fafa Picault has had the most impact so far, though a back issue will likely rule him out of Saturday’s game. Picault was a good fit to the way the Whitecaps like to attack on the counter and from wide areas.

Good news for Sounders fans, Picault is likely out for the match. The Whitecaps will still have a front three of Ryan Gauld, Brian White, and Damir Kreilach. That's a lot of attacking strength. Though slightly less defense.

SaH: Are the Whitecaps a system defense? It doesn't seem like a single player can be credited with their strength there.

STV: Their head coach, Vanni Sartini, has them set up in a zonal marking system, with three centre backs in a flexible 3-4-3 formation. The focus is defending space more than man marking. The idea is the whole team contributes to the defensive side of the game.

Let's head to WhoScored for interesting notes on the Vancouver defense.

That means that they are below league average in those situations. Seattle can take advantage of those weaknesses via Jordan Morris (Léo Chú) and Albert Rusnák (João Paulo).

SaH: How should Seattle attack Sartini's team?

STV: I would suggest to take a page from the LA Galaxy game plan last weekend and attack down the flanks. Being away from home, the Whitecaps will likely be more defensively structured and play on the counter, so drawing them out their shape will be key for the Sounders, I would think.

Joseph Paintsil and Riqui Puig had strong performances against Vancouver. As did the Galaxy fullback. Yes, that was their whole left side. If the Whitecaps are weak wide and on their own right, this may be a better match to see Cody Baker than the last two – including against CF Montreal. It is certainly a good idea to flood the left a bit via the three central mids, especially if Nouhou starts.

There's no reverse this week. Check out Soccer Talk Vancouver and The Third Sub for more Sounders v. Whitecaps previews.

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