Neither the Seattle Sounders nor Vancouver Whitecaps are particularly good at scoring goals. They ranked tied for 10th and tied for 12th, respectively, in MLS during underwhelming regular seasons in an underwhelming conference.
And neither the Seattle Sounders nor Vancouver Whitecaps had a particularly compelling reason to go all out to score goals on Sunday night in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal tie. So in an unsurprisingly ugly game at BC Place north of the Canadian border, neither team did score.
The Cascadia rivals will make the short jaunt south for Thursday’s second leg deadlocked at 0-0, with everything to play for. And hopefully they will actually play. They combined for just one shot on target Sunday, a Chad Marshall header that was comfortably dealt with by Stefan Marinovic. The closest either team came to a goal was a Kendall Waston clearance that rattled the Vancouver defender’s own crossbar.
The game was only eventful when it got hostile. There was jawing between the two benches. Vancouver manager Carl Robinson was seen shouting at Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro in the closing minutes. There were plenty of chippy scuffles between the lines as well. But Robinson and Seattle boss Brian Schmetzer talked it out afterwards, shrugged off questions about the exchange, and will begin to prepare for leg two.
Because there is a leg two, Seattle had little incentive to take risks in leg one. But that’s also a risk in itself. Because of the away goals rule, only a win will take the Sounders through to the conference finals. Only another scoreless draw over 90 minutes would take the game to extra time and potentially penalties.
That’s perhaps why Vancouver didn’t exactly throw everything forward itself. Seattle was actually the more dangerous of the two sides in the second half. Both teams know the onus will be on the second-seeded Sounders on Thursday night, and that could play into the Whitecaps’ hands.
But Seattle will be just fine with that responsibility. It won 11, drew five and lost just one of its 17 regular-season home games. And it will get Clint Dempsey back from suspension. The Sounders come out of the 0-0 draw as the favorite to advance to the conference finals.
But whichever contestant does ultimately advance will have to show a bit more ambition and a bit more quality than it did on Sunday in Vancouver.