SEATTLE – Since Saturday, the Seattle Sounders have routed the Vancouver Whitecaps by a 3-0 scoreline twice, bagged the Cascadia Cup for the first time since 2011 and punched their ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
All told, an impressive four-day haul for Seattle and head coach Sigi Schmid as they navigate their way through a stretch of the season that forced the Sounders to juggle a tight Western Conference playoff race with a challenging CCL group.
“The thing we talked about right before the game was ‘Hey, we’re starting to get a rhythm, we’re starting to win games, confidence is growing,’” Schmid said after the game. “This is just another game in that sequence.”
After leaning heavily on young players and reserves in Seattle’s previous CCL games against Vancouver and Honduran side Club Olimpia, Schmid fielded a more veteran lineup on Wednesday compared to a much more youthful Whitecaps side that trotted out a starting XI with an average age of just 24.5.
Seattle would capitalize on the inexperience, jumping ahead on a goal from Lamar Neagle in the 32nd minute and never looking back en route to the 3-0 victory that allowed them to advance out of Group F with seven points.
Saturday’s game at BC Place was the first game of the year Neagle didn’t play across all competitions for the Sounders, a break that Schmid said made for an increased energy level from the 28-year-old on Wednesday.
“He has played a lot of minutes and we’ve sort of put the mantle on him because of all the injuries that we’ve had,” Schmid said of Neagle. “I think his legs were a little bit fresher. Also your mentality becomes a little fresher. You also wear down psychologically and sometimes the bench is also a good motivator.”
Neagle, who also scored the game’s final goal in the 47th minute, said Wednesday’s brace brought a sense of relief considering a loss or a draw would have eliminated the Sounders from CCL play.
“After having nine goals [previously in my career] and not really having nine goals this year yet, it’s nice to get two in a game,” Neagle said. “Especially in a game that’s important like this one and after we went up there, I wasn’t able to go to Vancouver and we were able to score three goals against them. To do the exact same thing is nice.”
The Sounders will now look to carry over the positive results of the two blowout victories back into MLS play, where they will meet Sporting Kansas City on Sunday (5 pm ET, ESPN) with just one point separating the sides in the Western Conference standings.