Vancouver: Paul Shepherd (46' Paul Dolan); Jeff Clarke, Richie Sumner, Chris Franks, Nico Berg; Steve Kindell, Craig Dalrymple (46' Steve MacDonald), Ivor Evans, Oliver Heald; Garrett Kusch, Domenic Mobilio (46' Ian Clarke).
Seattle: Dusty Hudock (46' Preston Burpo); Bernie James, Bryan McNiel, Scott Jenkins, Kieran Barton; Neil Megson (75' Kei Kinoshita), Vicente Figueroa, Peter Hattrup (82' John Cowmey), Esmundo Rodriguez; Chance Fry (56' Erik Storkson), Mike Gailey (46' Paul Gelvezon).
Cautions: Megson (S), Gailey (S), Hattrup (S), Heald (V), Kusch (V)
Expulsions: Jenkins (S)
Shots: Vancouver 22, Seattle 13
Saves: Shepherd 2, Dolan 1; Hudock 4, Burpo 5
Corners: Vancouver 6, Seattle 5
Fouls: Vancouver 20, Seattle 24
Offside: Vancouver 0, Seattle 3
In the regular season closer for both teams, the Vancouver Eighty-Sixers defeated the visiting Seattle Sounders 2-1. Seattle won the season series 3-2, with all five games being decided by a single goal.
Vancouver took the early lead when Domenic Mobilio converted a fortuitous penalty kick, then the 86ers added a necessary insurance goal just before halftime when Garrett Kusch scored from Chris Franks' short cross. Seattle pulled within a goal early in the second half when 20-year-old Vicente Figueroa scored from a long Kieran Barton cross. The crossbar stopped Esmundo Rodriguez' shot in the final minute, preserving the win for Vancouver. This was Rodriguez' third match with the Sounders, on loan from the San Jose Clash.
Missing from the field were Canadian Nationals and ex-86ers Geoff Aunger (suspended due to a red card a week earlier) and Mark Watson (just loaned to Oester IF of Sweden's first division).
The early minutes saw few good chances for either team, save for a couple of free kicks Vancouver took from a few yards outside Seattle's penalty area. But all Vancouver could hit was the wall.
Vancouver's Oliver Heald took the first good shot of the game when he headed sharply on goal from Craig Dalrymple's slightly deflected cross.Seattle goalkeeper Dusty Hudock dove to block the shot at the goal line, then gathered in the loose ball at the post. A minute later a Vancouver pass was deflected into space in front of Heald and he sent a hard shot toward the lower far corner. Hudock dove again and pushed this one onto the post, and the rebound came right back to Hudock.
22' Mobilio (PK). Bernie James appeared to me to ball-tackle a Vancouver attacker who dribbled into the penalty area. James dribbled away with the ball after the attacker tripped over the suddenly stopped ball, but the referee saw the play differently and whistled a PK. Several Sounders questioned the referee about the call but of course he did not change his mind. Mobilio put the penalty kick inside the right post out of Hudock's reach to give Vancouver the 1-0 lead.
Vancouver continued to get the better shots for the rest of the half. Ivor Evans beat Peter Hattrup to earn a cross to Mobilio's head, but the looping shot came down on top of the net. Hudock leaped over an attacker to punch away a cross, but the ball went right to Franks, who shot right to Hudock out by the spot while the goal was mostly open.
Seattle did get some chances the first half. Hattrup's 35-yard free kick was pushed wide by a diving Paul Shepherd at the left post for a corner kick. Rodriguez' 30-yarder skipped off the grass and curled to the right, forcing Shepherd to turn sideways as he caught it at the goal line.
43' Kusch (Franks). Vancouver earned their insurance goal from a nice series of passes. Nico Berg crossed from the right to Mobilio, who fed ahead for Franks to run onto right of the goal. Franks laid a square cross to Kusch, who shot hard from near the penalty spot. Hudock slid sideways and managed to deflect the shot up and to the side, but the deflection gave the ball top spin and when it hit the ground it jumped into the goal out of Hudock's reach. Vancouver went into halftime with a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Five substitutes took over for the second half, including changes in both goals. Paul Dolan took over Vancouver's goaltending duties, with Ian Clarke and Steve MacDonald replacing Mobilio and Dalrymple. Preston Burpo took over Seattle's goal for the first time in the regular season, and Paul Gelvezon replaced Mike Gailey.
Vancouver continued their momentum from the first half. Fullback Richie Sumner sent in a 40-yard blast that was headed for the upper far corner, but Burpo leaped sideways to push the shot over the bar for a corner. Evans' 25-yard low shot just missed the far post. Heald was unmarked when he received a cross near the spot, but Burpo came out and slid in to deflect the shot out for a corner.
56' Figueroa (Barton). Kieran Barton's long, curving cross from the right was too far past the far post for Dolan to get to, but Figueroa was there and unmarked as he settled the ball and shot inside the near post before Dolan could fully recover. This was the first goal as a Sounder for Figueroa, a 20-year-old who was signed just a few weeks ago. Figueroa came to the Sounders to get some playing time after training with the San Jose Clash, and before that with Chivas of Guadalajara, but failing to crack either team's lineup.
In his first appearance this year, forward Erik Storkson came on for Chance Fry. Storkson was a substitute for the Sounders two years ago. Storkson, who likes the aerial game, leaped to earn a couple of headed shots, but neither ball gave him a good chance.
Vancouver kept up goal pressure, trying to regain a 2-goal lead. Kusch turned and quickly fired from the left, but missed the far post. Then his header from the left forced a diving block at the far post by Burpo. With Burpo on the ground, Ian Clarke volleyed the rebound over the bar from six yards out. Ian Clarke got another chance when a cross came to him out from the far post. His header went back across the goal and just missed the other post.
Sounders reserve John Cowmey logged his first minutes of the regular season, replacing Hattrup late in the game.
In the 86th minute, Seattle's Scott Jenkins showed that he is still a rookie when, after he felt he was fouled on a meaningless challenge near the touch line, he turned to the referee and said a couple of words that included a forbidden word. He immediately apologized, but it was too late as the red card was already on the way out. Jenkins walked off the field, booed by the Vancouver fans. He will miss a first-round playoff game due to his indiscretion.
It looked like Seattle had run out of chances, down a man near the end of the match, but in the final minute on a counterattack a cross came to Rodriguez at the 18-yard line with time to measure a quick shot. Rodriguez' hard shot almost forced an overtime period, but it hit the crossbar squarely and rebounded out of the reach of any Sounders. The 86ers breathed a sigh of relief, and a minute later the final whistle confirmed Vancouver' 2-1 victory.
There's always a special feeling in the air when the Sounders comes to town, and this game which closed out the regular season for both teams was no exception. Unfortunately it was not the climactic showdown for first place that had been hoped for just a few days earlier. Instead it was but an uncertain stepping stone in the path to the playoffs -- a game which by itself would do little to clarify the complicated permutations of the possible first round match-ups in the tight Pacific Division.
The match started brightly enough for the home team with some good play by Kusch in the opening minutes. He first released Evans and Heald down the left with a nice flick-on and soon after made a strong run himself beating two defenders, but in both cases the final cross into the box was easily dealt with by the Seattle defence.
Vancouver then wasted two free kick opportunities in a row with Berg and then Mobilio shooting so high they may as well have been aiming at geese. And the chances kept coming in pairs, as Heald was twice stoned by Huddock in the space of a minute. The first time was on a header after Franks had left Figueroa for dead down the wing before sending in his cross, and the second was a shot from the top of the box which the Seattle keeper could only deflect against the post.
The Vancouver pressure was duly rewarded in the 23rd minute when Franks again beat Figueroa down the right only to be bundled over by McNeil in the box. A penalty was called, which Mobilio comfortably converted. The goal seemed to wake up the Sounders, and end to end play ensued.
Figueroa made a good run down the left, cutting inside Sumner before
firing a fierce shot which was blocked. Megson then tried to chip
the rebound over Shepherd but sent it several stories too high. Evans
then replied with a great run of his own, beating Hattrup and placing a
perfect cross on the head of Mobilio whose effort arced just over the bar.
Then a long free kick
by Hattrup was mishandled by Shepherd and went for a corner, while at the other end it was problems for Huddock who couldn't deal with Kusch's challenge on a high ball; it dropped to Franks who fired it straight into the keeper's arms.
Seattle was starting to put on some pressure and Shepherd had some anxious moments. He made a good save on a long free kick from Rodriguez, watched helplessly as a bullet from Figueroa sailed just past the post, and then looked slow to come off his line to collect a through ball just ahead of a charging Chance Fry.
But Vancouver weathered the storm and started to regain control of the match, culminating in a second goal in the 43rd minute. Dalrymple made a great sliding tackle to win the ball for Berg who played a neat 1-2 with Mobilio into the box, taking it to the endline before squaring the ball to Kusch who stabbed it in at the near post from 6 yards out.
I've seen many games against Seattle where Vancouver has deserved a healthy lead, but actually obtaining one has been next to impossible. The Sounders have a knack for keeping games against us much closer than they should be and then stealing the points with a late goal. But Vancouver seemed intent to erase that trend at the start of the second half...
Sumner got things rolling with a powerfully struck long range effort that Burpo did well to push over the bar. Then a loose ball in the box fell to Heald who blazed wide. Moments later Kusch made a great run, setting up Heald again in front, but the snake-bitten midfielder struck the post for the second time in the game.
After Vancouver had squandered these early chances it should have come as no surprise that Seattle would now score. But if one word were to describe the Sounders goal it would have to be "surprise". It came from nothing. In minute 56, a loose ball in midfield was suddenly lofted into the Vancouver penalty area by Barton. It bounced straight to a wide open Figueroa who hit it first time past Dolan at the near side before any Vancouver player could react. It suddenly looked like it might be deja vu all over again.
The Sounders were now pressing for an equaliser. Vancouver was looking a little panicky and kept failing to clear. An attempted cross into the box by Gelvezon was blocked, seemingly hitting an 86er on the arm, but the ref waved play on. That bit of good fortune seemed to break the spell and Vancouver again seized control of the match, keeping the ball in the Sounder's half for most of the next twenty minutes, and creating a catalogue of missed opportunities.
Ian Clarke was perhaps the worst offender, wasting three half chances and one which must surely be counted as a chance-and-a-half. Slick play between Franks and Kusch allowed the former to set up the latter for a looping header which Burpo could only partially save. Clarke charged in for the rebound but conspired to lift the ball over the bar from two yards out.
Other notable plays included good long shots by Berg and Kusch, as well as Franks being sent in alone with a brilliant diagonal pass from Berg, but not being able to get a shot off before being closed down by the Seattle defence. The game's final minutes were poorly played following an ejection to Jenkins for striking the ref with a backhanded swipe in a moment of frustrated madness after unsuccessfully arguing a call. It had been a fairly chippy game with Seattle using some unsavoury clutch and grab tactics and players on both sides going in for some pretty late challenges.
The sloppy play saw Seattle almost conjure a shock equaliser in injury
time when Rodriguez suddenly found some space and rattled a shot off the
underside of the crossbar. But the final whistle soon sounded giving
the 86ers a much awaited and fully deserved victory over their long standing
rivals. The two teams must now wait for the playoff picture to clarify,
knowing that they me very well be facing each other again very very soon.