Vancouver 86ers 1 - 4 Seattle Sounders Hoggan (S) 35' Kusch (V) 42' Hoggan (S) 44' Farrell (S) 47' James Dunn (S) 50' att.: 3,748
Vancouver: Merkl; Macdonald (Berg 52), Payne, Sumner, Norman; Dailly, Oliviero, Nash, Heald (I. Clarke 78); Kusch, Muirhead (Sibiya 58).
Yellow cards: Oliviero 19 (from behind); Webber 32 (crude challenge on Dailly).
But in the end, it doesn't matter how much of the ball you have, and how long you spend attacking your opponent's goal. What counts is how often you stick it in the net.
The 86ers, without Dolan and Mobilio, on duty for the national team tonight (vs. Panama in Edmonton), brought in Kusch up front and tracked down the retired Rob Merkl to play in goal. It didn't seem to matter, though, as the 86ers took control of the game early and, playing an attractive passing game supplemented by the skill of Nash on the left and Dailly on the right, came forward purposefully. They created a whole catalogue of chances, and it seemed only a matter of time before a goal would result. Some of the chances: a free kick from the right saw Kusch and Hahnemann battle for the ball, with the keeper winning, but only on the second attempt; Dailly got to the byeline on the right and cut the ball back to Muirhead, whose shot was wide; Nash got away from his man on the left and crossed to an unmarked Muirhead whose header, leaning back, went over; on a corner from the right, Kusch's near-post header was just wide; Norman fired one in from the edge of the box that was blocked, but any number of players had a go at it until Hahnemann eventually fell on the ball.
The visitors eventually managed occasional forays forward, but it was not until the 30th minute that they managed anything close to goal. Foreshadowing events to come, Hoggan let fly on a 30-yard free kick. He hit it well, but Merkl caught it easily above his head. But, five minutes later, the same player, with nothing apparently on, stepped into the inside left position and cracked one, from about the same range, that went high to Merkl's left and in, despite the keeper's dive. It seemed outrageously improbable that the Sounders were in front, but that was the story.
The pattern of the game scarcely changed as halftime approached (as, indeed, was the case all the way through). Three minutes before the break, Kusch cut in from the right and hit a shot that was deflected wide; the ensuing corner, taken by Heald, was a flat one to the far post aimed for Kusch's head, and the young forward made no mistake with a powerful header.
It seemed as if sanity had been restored, and that we would go into the break tied, with the 86ers ready to win the game in the second half. But such thoughts lasted only two minutes. A quick Sounder break down the left ended with the ball being crossed to Farrell at the near post, who touched it back to Hoggan on the edge of the box. The midfielder's low drive was well hit, and the Sounders were back in front.
As the second half got under way, there still seemed no reason for the home supporters to panic. The 86ers were still dominating possession and looking well capable of scoring. But within two minutes of the restart, Sumner and Thompson battled for a through ball on the edge of the 86er box. Neither played it decisively, but it ran for Farrell on the right, who gave Merkl no chance, and suddenly it was 3-1.
Even 3-1 didn't look so bad, and the 86ers came right back, Dailly showing his pace on the right and crossing to Muirhead at the near post, whose flick header looped just too high. But moments later, the game was as good as over. A loose ball fell to Thompson, whose shot was well saved by Merkl, but the ensuing corner was swung to the edge of the goal area, where James Dunn stormed in with a powerful header.
The 86ers threw Sibiya, and later young Ian Clarke, into the fray, and continued to press forward and create chances. Dailly's dangerous cross from the right was well claimed by Hahnemann; Oliviero's run ended with a shot being deflected just over; another Oliviero shot was deflected wide by Sibiya; a Nash corner from the right was flicked on by Berg and cleared at the far post only with difficulty. But the Sounders survived, by a mixture of good fortune and solid defending, with the latter predominant as the game wore on, and had no shortage of opportunities themselves on the break, the best of which fell to James Dunn, with another header off a corner, this one wide, and to McCormick, whose shot clipped the crossbar. In the end, there was no further scoring, and the Sounders, though not in the class of Sounder teams of the last couple of years, showed once again against the 86ers that they don't need many chances to win it.
It was a wild night in the A-league generally: while, to no-one's great surprise, the Impact took care of New York (1-0), Rochester tallied an octet in an 8-2 thrashing of Atlanta.
All of this moves the 86ers out of the battle for 2nd, which Colorado and Seattle seem to have between them now, and very much into a battle with the Rhinos for 4th place. Rochester have two games in hand. New York's lost shootouts make them at best an outside chance for the playoffs.
P W D L F A Pts 1 Montreal 24 15 4 5 36 16 49 2 Colorado 23 11 3 9 47 31 34 [-2] 3 Seattle 24 10 8 6 30 22 34 [-4] 4 Rochester 22 8 6 8 35 39 27 [-3] 5 Vancouver 24 8 5 11 28 36 27 [-2] 6 New York 23 6 8 9 30 29 21 [-5] 7 Atlanta 18 3 2 13 13 46 9 [-2]