So many Sounders players were missing that it was almost neighborly of Canadian fans to help fill the Cascadia Cup party void Saturday. But there weren’t nearly enough in the crowd of 53,679 at CenturyLink to make the Whitecaps feel comfortable. Seattle’s come-from-behind 3-2 triumph kept Vancouver’s MLS Cup-era record winless.
Down Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans (playing for the U.S. Men’s National Team) and Steve Zakuani and Osvaldo Alonso (injuries), the Sounders struck first, were staggered and responded late.
In the 81st minute, forward Lamar Neagle received a precision cross from fellow striker Obafemi Martins for the game-winner, breaking a 2-2 tie and sending Seattle (6-4-3, 21 points) to a second MLS victory in a row. The win pushed the Sounders to 3-0-3 against their northern rivals and alone in fourth place in the Western Conference standings.
“The third goal was as well-taken a goal as we wanted to see,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “It was a good ball by Andy Rose, a good turn by (Martins) and Neagle with the great near-post run.”
Trailing 2-1 into the second half, Seattle rallied to avoid a first MLS loss and moved to 6-1-1 in the past eight matches.
Such victories come at a premium given how MLS teams must temporarily bid farewell to their best players when chosen for international tournaments. Evans turned national hero Friday after scoring the game-winner in the USMNT’s World Cup qualifier victory against Jamaica.
“I didn’t see (Brad) today and I sent him a text and he hasn’t answered it yet, so I’m a little pissed off at him,” Schmid quipped.
Jokes aside, when MLS players attain individual stardom, often the team can suffer. The Sounders didn’t against the Whitecaps.
“I think different people have stepped up on different days and different occasions,” Schmid said. “They know when their opportunity comes, they want to take hold of it. We keep having to shuffle it around. But the thing is, the guys have confidence in each other and have confidence in the guy playing next to him.”
The best example: Servando Carrasco’s PK goal in the 70th minute that knotted the game at two. The midfielder hadn’t scored all season, let alone tried a critical penalty shot late in a tense rivalry match. The strike past goalkeeper Brad Knighton confidently dotted the top left side of the net.
“My teammates and coaching staff gave me the confidence to take the kick and I knew that I had to step up and score,” he said. “It was an important time in the game and there was only one thought on mind—put it in the back of the net.”
Unheralded midfielder Rose contributed, too. After struggling through the first part of the season, Rose scored in the ninth minute when Neagle threaded a pass through the middle of an unsuspecting Whitecaps defense.
Vancouver responded moments later, when midfielder Russell Tiebert lofted a high-arcing cross into the Sounders box and forward Camilo Sanvezzo headed in the first of his two goals.
Sanvezzo scored again in the 26th minute when he headed in another pass from Tiebert, this one off a free kick from outside the box to give the Whitecaps a 2-1 lead. The advantage proved elusive.
Now at 7-0-2 all-time at CenturyLink Field when the crowd exceeds 40,000, the Sounders outshot the Whitecaps 16-10 and dominated the time of possession while playing on a temporary grass field that players from both teams admitted was less than ideal. The installation of grass was a requirement to host the USMNT’s match against Panama Tuesday.
The Sounders’ play and the fans’ support made it easier to overlook the lumpy, torn party grounds.
“It’s a responsibility,” said goalie Michael Gspurning. “If so many (fans) are coming we don’t want to disappoint them. Everything was what you would expect — great entertainment.”