The Seattle Sounders are well aware they need a victory to advance in the MLS is Back Tournament when they battle the rival Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday night near Orlando, Fla.
The Sounders (1-1-2, 5 points overall) are 0-1-1 (1 point) in Group B play and a tie or setback will send the defending MLS champions back to the Pacific Northwest.
“Like everybody has been saying already, ‘Desperate.’ We are desperate for points,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said in a video call with reporters on Friday. “If we lose, we don’t get a result and we’re going home.”
Seattle played the group-leading San Jose Earthquakes (1-0-1, 4 points in the tournament) to a scoreless tie in its opener before dropping a 2-1 decision to the second-place Chicago Fire (1-0-0, 3 points).
The results leave the Sounders with no margin for error if they want to reach the Round of 16 of the tourney at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The top two finishers in each group advance while four other teams will land a spot due to total points.
“This is when we’re at our best,” Seattle defender Kelvin Leerdam told reporters during a video call. “Looking back at last year when everybody was doubting us, especially at the end of the season and stuff like that, we showed our true colors and we won the title. We’re at the same phase right now.”
Vancouver (1-2-0, 3 points on the season; 0-1-0, 0 points in the tourney) will be looking to bounce back from a demoralizing 4-3 loss to San Jose.
The Whitecaps held leads of 2-0 and 3-1 but wilted late in the match. The Earthquakes won the game on Shea Salinas’ goal in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage play.
Vancouver is playing short-handed after having five players not travel to the tournament and two more injured in practices after its arrival. Another player, midfielder Leo Owusu (hamstring), also could be in danger of sitting out on Sunday.
Coach Marc Dos Santos is getting tired of talking about player shortages.
“Let’s do this. Let’s talk about the lack of depth now, and then not talk about it anymore -- ever,” Dos Santos told reporters. “You know, it’s there, it’s a fact. ...
“Of course it’s a struggle, but what I have to do right now is to really maximize the guys who are here, make them play to the best of their ability, and find the way that tactically, (the game is) very simple.”
Also, the Whitecaps on Saturday signed midfielder Russell Teibert to a contract extension through 2023 with an option for 2024.
The Whitecaps went 0-1-1 against Seattle in the 2019 regular season.
--Field Level Media
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