Playoff Match One

September 15, 1995


Heale  (S)  '80

Attendance: 4,036

This report comes from Ken Butler:

Vancouver: Dolan; Dodd (Sibiya 73), Macdonald, McKinty (Reed 84), Watson; Berg, Dailly (Mobilio 63), Oliviero, Nash; Aunger, Valentine.
Seattle: Hahnemann; Webber, Megson, Crook, James Dunn (Rizi 45); Medved, Haynes (Heale 72), Kinnear; Fry, Farrell, Jason Dunn.
Yellow card: Berg 62 (tugging a player back).

This match, from start to finish, resembled an English cup tie, with two teams ready to play a fast, intense, physical game. Like an English cup tie, though there weren't many goals, there was lots of action, with both teams having spells of dominance. Like most of the 86ers-Sounders games this season, it could have gone either way, but the team from south of the border ended up with the result.

Coach Carl Valentine had said that, for the 86ers to win, they needed to apply lots of pressure, and this they certainly tried to do. The coach rolled back the clock by picking himself as a winger, and was very effective, especially in the first half.

The first ten minutes belonged to the 86ers, the best chance being a Valentine cross cleared out from under the bar, and Nash's attempt to put the ball back being blocked away at the near post. But the Sounders were ready to respond with pace and some precise passing. Dunn took a through ball, turned Watson, but Dolan easily saved the shot. Then a Farrell pass set up Dunn again, but his quick shot was wide. The 86ers came right back: Valentine's hold-up on the left set up an Aunger shot that was just wide, then some Valentine trickery on the right led to a dangerous cross that was eventually cleared. Then, after a corner had been cleared, Dailly made a cross from which Watson's downward header was well saved by Hahnemann. Finally, Macdonald did well to win the ball in midfield, passed it off and continued his run -- when the return ball came, Macdonald had found space inside the box, but could only push his shot across Hahnemann and wide.

The Sounders had their own run of chances just before the break. Watson was busy, stopping first Fry and then Dunn to snuff out a Seattle attack; then a long ball put Fry in onside, and Dolan came racing out of his box to clear. At halftime, my feeling was that the 86ers had just shaded it, but it was certainly hard to pick a winner.

The second half continued in the same action-packed vein as the first. Farrell's pace down the right led to a dangerous-looking cross that eluded everybody. Then a Valentine run down the left led to a cross that was flicked on at the near post and floated across goal before being cleared. Immediately after this, what could have been a crucial moment turned out not to be: Haynes crossed from the left, and Fry seemed to push off the defender to get his header in. There was no whistle, and the header went just wide with Dolan wondering if he would have got to it.

The action continued: a knockdown set up a fierce shot from Medved; Dolan parried and gathered the rebound. It seemed that the Sounders were slowly getting the better of things: they were winning more ball in midfield, and were able to keep possession moving forward. The 86ers, though, were working hard, refusing to be outplayed, and themselves won some useful possession by continuing to tackle back. After Berg had been booked for pulling back a Sounder who would have benefitted from advantage being played, the 86ers had another spell of pressure, with Mobilio, who had come into the game, prominent. A Nash cross was headed wide by Oliviero; then an intelligent header on by Mobilio put Dodd in for a moment down the right wing, but the shot was blocked; then another talking point. A nice through ball released Valentine down the right, and his cross was aimed at Aunger on the near post, but it never got there because the defender appeared to handle it before getting the ball clear. No time to dwell on this, though, as at the other end, an ill-advised headed back pass put Dolan under pressure, and he could only push it out towards Dunn, who put it up and over from about six yards out. Then the 86ers went forward again, Aunger running in on the left and putting his shot just too high, and Nash making a purposeful run through the middle which ended with a disappointing shot.

The 86ers had defended reasonably well through the game, given the dangerous Seattle forwards, but as the second half progressed, one or two worrying gaps were appearing at the back. With ten minutes remaining, the Sounders won the match by exploiting one such gap: a dangerous-looking run down the inside right channel was halted, but not convincingly so, and substitute Heale was in enough space to pick up the pieces and fire a shot into the net. The kind of goal you hate to concede.

The 86ers brought on Reed and Sibiya, and concentrated on getting the ball towards them as quickly as possible, but despite some frantic pressure, it was all to no avail, as the Sounders held on for the victory. At least it was a "real" victory. It would have been more galling to lose a CrapShootout.

The second game of the series is Sunday at 4pm, at Memorial Stadium in Seattle. My trusty notebook and I will be there to see the 86ers force game 3. Hopefully!

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