Vancouver Whitecaps defeat depleted Seattle Sounders

July 7, 2014 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Whitecaps season 2014 | Leave a comment

Having played two terrible matches in a row the Vancouver Whitecaps met table toppers and Cascadia rivals the Seattle Sounders on Saturday night. As I walked to the stadium I saw Andy O’Brien signing autographs at a booth. With Jay DeMerit and Andy O’Brien unavailable in central defence, I feared a Seattle onslaught.IMG_8557

My fears were not realised. It turned out to be Seattle that was depleted by cards, World Cup fatigue and injury. Alonso, Dempsey, Yedlin, Martins and another starter whose name I cannot recall were all out of the Seattle line up.

Without five of their starters Seattle put out a team of typical muscle-bound MLSers with lots of bulk but little football skill. They were impressive athletes, but were they good footballers? No.

Luckily the Whitecaps welcomed back Steven Beitashour from Iran’s World Cup effort. The natural right back relieved Nigel Reo-Coker from playing out of position. Reo-Coker started the match on the bench.

It goes without saying that David Ousted started in goal, with Leveron, Mitchell and Harvey joining Beitashour on the back line. Koffie and Laba played defensive midfield while Morales, Manneh and Fernandez supported lone striker Hurtado.

It was a relief that after two bad matches Pedro Morales was finally in the mood to play. He showed his quality all night, though he continued to disappoint with his inability to score on free kicks. Perhaps I got used to seeing Camilo bang them in to the net with apparent ease from virtually anywhere.

The Whitecaps took advantage of Seattle’s makeshift team, which struggled to cope early on with the pace of the Whitecaps’ ball movement and attack. Manneh and Hurtado tortured the Sounders with their speed.

Seba ready to let  rip

Seba ready to let rip

Morales provided the first goal early in the match as he got possession of the ball and released it just as two Seattle defenders rushed to tackle him. He passed the ball to Fernandez, who found himself in lots of space 30 yards out from goal. The little Uruguayan took one touch and lashed the ball as only he can. The ball dipped and swerved so much that Seattle keeper Frei thought it was going the other way. The keeper’s knees buckled as he made a futile effort to change direction. He got nowhere near the ball as it flew past him.

resistance was futile

resistance was futile

It was yet another magnificent strike from Fernandez, who is clearly the best shooter of the ball in the Whitecaps squad. If only we could get him to teach Koffie how to shoot!
Striker Eric Hurtado seems to have lapsed recently and has gone back to his cement footed ways. He had lots of the ball but never really looked like scoring all night.

The Whitecaps went into the dressing room with a one goal lead, but looked the better quality team. In the second half they adopted a defensive posture, and it seemed that Carl Robinson was running a clinic in how to win a football match 1-0. During the first part of the second half the Whitecaps had real problems holding on to the ball, and Seattle threatened to tie the match, enjoying almost all of the possession of the ball.

Carl Robinson made a sensible decision and replaced Manneh with Nigel Reo-Coker mid way through the half. Reo-Coker has the knack for helping the Whitecaps keep possession of the ball. Kekuta Manneh had another bad game, and it seems he has much to learn about making himself effective within the team. He barely recognized Reo-Coker as he sulked passed the veteran on his way off the pitch. Manneh just cannot find the consistency he needs to be a solid professional footballer.

It turned out to be the right call by Robinson as the Whitecaps started to hold on to the ball, frustrating the Sounders with a neat and efficient passing game. They saw out the match in this fashion, although the Sounders did create some close chances as they desperately worked to tie the match. Laba and Koffie were brilliant in their midfield roles, tackling hard and helping to hold the ball.

Where did he get that great hat???

Where did he get that great hat???

So many times we have seen Seattle come up with a tie at the end of a match at BC Place but this time the Whitecaps held on to a 1-0 win. The win was much needed as the Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy have been drawing uncomfortably near of late. The three points put the Whitecaps back up into the thick of things in the playoff zone in the Western Conference.

The Whitecaps proved they could defend in this match, even if the feat had an asterix next to it considering they were playing a Sounders team shorn of its offensive might. Leveron and Mitchell filled in at centre back very well and certainly must have given injured starters DeMerit and O’Brien pause to think.

Lets hope for some more 1-0 wins in the future.

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