Whitecaps stuff Sounders and Cascadia curseJuly 7, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2013 | Leave a comment
We witnessed a first last night in Vancouver Whitecaps history. Since joining Major League Soccer in 2011, the Whitecaps had yet to beat either of their Cascadia rivals Seattle or Portland in a head-to-head match. Ties and losses were the norm. Before the game I had told my friends we were going to win this match. The Sounders are inconsistent this year in spite of having a lot of talent, and the Whitecaps had been getting consistently better in the last eight matches or so.
The Seattle Sounders are the highest functioning franchise in MLS. They have the biggest crowds and always field a competitive team. Their fan support is large and well organized. This was evident yesterday when at least 2,000 green shirted Seattle fans created a sellout of BC Place. It was the best match so far at BC place in terms of atmosphere, which was created by the rivalry of travelling Sounders support and our own Southsiders.
As expected, Gershon Koffie started his first match in midfield since his injury troubles, and Cory Herzog started wide right in the absent Russell Teibert’s spot. Nigel Reo-Coker was back in midfield, mercifully, and Brad Rusin started at centre back with YP Lee back at right back (again, mercifully). The Sounders fielded an impressive side that dwarfed our team in terms of size. Djimi Traore, Obafemi Martins, Eddie “blondie” Johnson and Shalrie Joseph graced the pitch in that horrible green uniform.
Cory Herzog slotted in for Teibert just fine, thank you very much, playing a high ball from the centre circle over Seattle’s defence straight down the middle for Miller to run on to in the fourth minute. Miller brought the ball down, put the ball across the Seattle defender, and finished low to the keeper’s left. I was certain from where I was that Miller had appeared not to get proper contact and had missed the net, but there it was in the back of the net. Kenny Miller seems to be getting better with each match. What a start! It was “route one” football, a strategy the Whitecaps would use with success all night.
Seattle had the majority of possession by a large margin, and the Whitecaps had problems keeping the ball, giving it up far too easily in midfield. Luckily for the Whitecaps, keeper Brad Knighton had his best match for the Whitecaps, making a series of crucial spectacular saves. It was a testament to his skill that Knighton got a clean sheet; he frustrated the ambitions of Johnson and Martins multiple times. It was a keeper’s dream game and Knighton will no doubt remember this as the night he won the game for the Whitecaps and shut out an impressive array of Seattle Sounders players. No question, he was the man of the match.
With the Whitecaps holding on by the skin of their teeth virtually all night, and not being able to move the ball up the pitch through the midfield, the Whitecaps resorted to long balls out of the back. This was a formula which cried out for one man: Darren Mattocks. In the last third of the match Darren Mattocks was brought on for his speed, with Rennie trying to take advantage of the fact the Sounders were pushing men forwards to try and equalize. Mere minutes after Mattocks came on, the route one approach paid off again. Knighton took a goal kick which was headed on by Koffie into the path of Mattocks who took one touch with his shoulder and hit a looping shot past Gspurning into Seattle’s goal in the 80th minute. It Pandemonium in BC Place, and victory was all but assured.
The Sounders brought Rosales and the speedy Yedlin on to try to save the match, but they fizzled out and ultimately proved ineffective. Seattle Coach Sigi Schnidt watched despairingly, looking for all the world like someone’s fat grandad.
The Whitecaps were the home team but played the game like an away match, giving the majority of possession to the Sounders and playing a defensive, resilient match which frustrated the Sounders. The Whitecaps pinged the ball around at the back and then looked for the long ball over the top. Home or away, it worked, even if it was not the most attractive football. Every man on the Caps did his job, although Rusin nearly scored on his own net twice. He and Leveron did a great job under intense pressure, although they left Knighton exposed on too many occasions. The quality and experience of the Whitecaps squad is growing match by match.
The crowd was so loud in celebration during injury time the final whistle could not be heard. Even the boring people sitting around us were eventually coaxed out of their slumbers to stand and cheer the team on to a famous victory. The Southsiders were magnificent all night, and Camilo and Koffee did a victory dance in front of the fans. It has to be said that the Sounders fans were great too, continuing to praise their team with well choreographed displays long after it was clear they would lose. Both home and away support put the rest of the MLS to shame with fantastic tifo displays.
It was a Cascadia classic: a 2-0 win for the Whitecaps and a night to remember.