Vancouver 86ers 0 - 2 Seattle Sounders McCormick (S) 89' Fry (S) 90'
Yellow cards: Norman 8 (foul), Payne 44 (reckless challenge); Webber 15 (foul).
Attendance: 2 634 at Rotary Stadium, Abbotsford, BC.
It was an unfamiliar sort of evening, all in all. This was the first of three 86ers "home" games played across the province, while Swangard Stadium undergoes repairs. Alan Douglas was kind enough to offer me a ride to this game (60 km or so east out of Vancouver), and, with a large number of 86ers in Edmonton preparing for Sunday's Olympic qualifier with Australia, it was something of a makeshift lineup taking the field in this unfamiliar setting. Four players were called up from the Reserves, of whom Jeff Skinner started the game, and a number of veterans made an unexpected return to the lineup.
The game started in lively fashion, with the home team taking it to the visitors. Within the first three minutes, Dailly's low shot had been tipped wide by Hahnemann, and a long cross from the right eluded everybody but Skinner, whose sharp-angled shot needed to be turned around the post by the keeper. Play swept from end to end, and the Sounders had their chances too; after a cross from the right by Leonetti, Fry seemed to have lots of space, but mistimed his shot, and then, after some approach play on the left, Megson's shot caught the outside of the post.
After this, play settled into a rather more cautious pattern, with passages of scrappy play around midfield, a pattern that was to persist for much of the rest of the game. Webber got himself cautioned, and then committed another foul shortly afterwards that earned him a stern word from the referee, while, close to halftime, Payne went flying into the challenge and can have no complaints about the card he received. Between these two events, Mobilio's looping header put in Ross, whose first-time shot went high, and a nice move down the left side ended with Payne setting up Dailly, whose left-footer went wide. At the other end, Fry played the ball into space on the right for Jason Dunn to run on to, but his shot was saved.
Scoreless at the break, as in so many games between these teams, with the 86ers having had slightly the better of the play, and it continued scoreless into the second half, as play continued in much the same pattern, with, at times, neither side able to control the ball long enough to create anything. One amusing moment: Hahnemann tried to clear the ball under pressure, but miscued, and the ball went straight up. The keeper tried to control the ball as it came down, but the ball had a lot of backspin and bounced crazily away, almost to a waiting 86er. In more orthodox fashion, a cross from the right by Morrill was headed wide by Farrell, and from a near post cross, Mobilio's header went wide.
86er coach Carl Valentine brought himself into the action with 25 minutes remaining, and almost had an immediate impact. First, he took a pass on the right and set off on a run, creating just enough room for a cross, from which Mobilio's header was right at the keeper, and moments later, Valentine took a through ball on the right edge of the box and his shot was saved by Hahnemann. No goal for the 86ers, though, and none for the Sounders either, though they came close when, after a cross from the right, Farrell's shot was tipped onto the post and away by Dolan. With the Sounders having had the edge in play in the second half, a draw would have been a fair result, and in any other league, the one point that both teams would get would have been deserved. When Ross, after a clearance, tried to lob the stranded keeper and put his shot wide, a draw, and the dreaded and unnecessary shootout, seemed on the cards. Then the Sounders struck twice in the last two minutes. Farrell crossed from the left flank, and the ball was laid back [by Jason Dunn] to McCormick, who had time to control, and then to fire a volley past Dolan's right hand. And just to make sure, deep into injury time, Dunn, who seemed to have nowhere to go near the left corner flag, slipped along the goal line past the two defenders, and his cross left Fry with a tap-in for the second.
So the Sounders won. Again. One cannot deny that they have the knack. The 86ers played solidly as a team, but without being able to find the goal that could have turned the game their way. New boy Skinner played a confident game at left back, also occasionally venturing forward to effect, while for the Sounders, Farrell was involved in much of their good play down the left side.
This year's A-league seems to consist of the "haves" and the "have nots", to judge by the standings below. The results of Friday's games are also shown:
Vancouver - Seattle 0-2
New York - Atlanta
P W D L F A Pts 1 Seattle 4 3 0 1 8 5 9 2 Colorado 3 2 0 1 9 5 6 3 Montreal 2 2 0 0 5 1 6 4 New York 2 0 1 1 1 3 1 5 Rochester 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 [-1] 6 Vancouver 2 0 0 2 1 4 0 7 Atlanta 2 0 0 2 2 8 0(In a drawn game, the shootout loser receives no points.)