VANCOUVER 1 - 2 SEATTLE Aunger (V) '28 Fry (S) '71, '72 Attendance: 4,823This report comes, once again, from Ken Butler:
Vancouver: Dolan; Macdonald, Norman (Valentine 81), McKinty, Watson; Aunger, Dailly,
Oliviero, Nash; Sibiya (Kusch 79), Reed (Mobilio 79)
Seattle:Hahnemann; Webber, Morrill (Fry 56), Megson, Dunn (Dunn 64); Crook, Medved, Haynes, Kinnear; Hattrup, Farrell.
[Yes, I did type that right. Defender James Dunn was replaced by forward Jason Dunn, so I wrote it out the most confusing way possible :-)].
Yellow cards: Aunger 60 (frustration foul after giving up the ball), Macdonald 68 (nasty foul from behind on Kinnear); Webber 9 (committing a second foul after a stern warning from the referee), Haynes 62 (foul on Norman).
This was the kind of game that could have gone either way, but in the end, it was surprising that it went the way it did. Explanation below.
The opening minutes were frantic, with both teams trying to assert themselves in a game played at a fast pace. There was little to choose, with both sides making chances. Farrell got himself open, but shot right at Dolan; then Oliviero put through a ball for Sibiya to run on to -- as it was, Sibiya did well to get to the ball first, but he could only prod it wide. Then Haynes got away a quick shot that was parried by Dolan and cleared. The game settled down a bit, with the 86ers taking control and showing glimpses of flowing soccer, and went ahead on 28 minutes. After a spell of pressure, a ball from the left found Sibiya; he ran into the box and tried to make room for a shot, but was brought down as he did so. Aunger stepped up to take the penalty, and dispatched it conclusively, low to Hahnemann's right.
For the next ten minutes or so, the 86ers were looking good. Nash's good work to win the ball back set up Oliviero for a shot that was just wide, and later Reed had a good chance to send Sibiya in alone, but couldn't get the pass away until Sibiya was the wrong side of the last defender. As half-time approached, the Sounders came back into it, with Hattrup prominent: first, a run into the box, on which he seemed to have the ball for an eternity, but eventually he was crowded out, and then a run down the left and a cross which was cleared with some difficulty.
The home side returned purposefully from the break, and up until the hour mark looked ready to make the game safe. Oliviero's 15-yard snap shot was parried by Hahnemann and cleared; some good control by Sibiya, holding up the ball on the edge of the box, set up a Nash shot that went wide; Nash made a nice turn and showed good speed down the left, but Reed had to fling himself at the cross and could only deflect it wide; Dailly got on the end of a perfect through ball down the inside right channel, and Hahnemann had to be at full stretch to save the shot. But, as usually happens when the 86ers look good going forward, there were some gaping holes at the back. Haynes took a swirling shot from way out, which Dolan had to watch before it hit the outside of the net, and later, Farrell got in down the right side and was stopped only by the hard-working Nash, who'd come all the way back.
As time passed, the good 86er chances got fewer, and the number of Sounders taking advantage of the defensive gaps got greater, and the lead was looking less secure. The visitors replaced two defenders with forwards, first Fry in for Morrill and then Jason Dunn in for James, and looked dangerous every time they got forward. Dunn got clear on the right before eventually being closed down by Watson, but it was to be Fry's predatory instincts that turned the game. After Dailly had shown some nice skill down the right, sending in a cross that Reed shot wide, and Farrell had had two quick shots, the first blocked and the second saved by Dolan, Fry went to work. He got wide open in the inside right position and hit a first-time shot across Dolan into the corner to level the game, a goal that was looking increasingly likely. Then, before anybody (least of all the 86ers' defence!) had had a chance to take this in, the Sounders came forward again, winning a throw on the left side. The throw found its way to Webber at the near post, who flicked it on, and as nobody seemed terribly anxious to clear the danger, Fry got his foot to the ball, and it looped up and over Dolan and into the net. The kind of goal you'll always take if you score it, but one that is horrible to give up if you've just given it up.
The 86ers made a wholesale change of strike-force, bringing in Kusch and Mobilio for Sibiya and Reed, and coach Valentine even threw himself into the fray, but the tide had turned, and a few dangerous-looking crosses were all the 86ers had to show for the rest of the night.
Here's how the teams stand now:
P W D L F A Pts 1 Montreal 22 15 2 5 44 24 48  2 Seattle 22 11 7 4 36 23 45  3 Vancouver 23 10 3 10 42 40 33 4 Atlanta 23 5 8 10 29 41 30  5 Colorado 22 6 6 10 33 40 25  6 New York 22 5 4 13 18 34 20  (3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, bonus of 1 for a CrapShootout win (shown in [ ]).
The 86ers are not mathematically certain of finishing 3rd, though it's hard to imagine a 14-goal goal-difference swing! The Sounders can still finish 1st, though you'll notice that under the FIFA-regulation 3-1-0 points system, the gap would be an unbreachable 7 points. The Ruckus look good for 4th place, though under 3-1-0 they'd be definite underdogs, a point behind having played a game more than the Foxes.
The 86ers complete their regular season with a trip to Seattle, for their sixth match of the season against the Sounders -- and, if the playoff picture works out as expected, the two teams will immediately play three more games in the first round of the playoffs!
Aren't leagues with only 6 teams wonderful? :-)