Seattle Sounders 4 : 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
Good Workout in the Sun Satisfies Sigi
This closed door preparation game proved to be a real test for the likely first choice starters as the USL Champions proved very competitive. Sounders ran out 4-0 winners with Jaqua and Montero scoring twice each.
It was an eerie atmosphere as an empty stadium bore witness to Sounders FC’s first ever game at their home, but the visit of the Vancouver Whitecaps provided some familiarity. If this had been any Sounders fans first glimpse of the side, he may well have known the Caps side better, as a few of them were veterans of past Cascadia Cup derbies. Players such as Lyle Martin, Randy Edwini-Bonsu, Jay Nolly and Ethan Gage have already represented Vancouver in matches against Seattle.
Sounders found the early going to be difficult and there was a paucity of clear cut chances. In three minutes, Colombian Fredy Montero put over a cross but it was easily held by Jay Nolly in the Vancouver goal. Three minutes later Nolly watched as Sanna Nyassi fired right of the goal after Montero’s pass found him,. This combination proved very lively for Seattle and full credit must go the Vancouver’s Mason Trafford who handled the threat capably.
A series of disappointing Sounders set pieces followed with the ball failing to get past the first defender in several cases. This area is clearly something to be worked on.
Keller’s Save is a Turning Point
In the 21st minute Vancouver’s first, and probably best, chance came when the giant Wesley Charles went clear inside the Seattle box, and Kasey Keller looked sharp to get down and save the ball with his legs. It was the best chance of the match at the time and Keller later confessed that he takes particular pleasure from making saves that keep the score at 0-0, when his side then goes on to win the match
The Caps were increasingly coming back into the match as an attacking force and the dangerous Ansu Toure fired wide from the left hand side three minutes after Keller’s save.
At the other end both Montero and Sanna Nyassi managed to scuff shots in the same attack, and shortly after the same two players combined to find Montero in a scoring position but his header didn’t quite have the force and direction to trouble Nolly, who caught comfortably.
Sounders were beginning to step up a gear at this point and Montero drove over the bar from 25 yards. The Caps came bravely back and after James Riley fouled Toure, Martin Nash backheeled the subsequent free kick to Toure who blasted over.
But it was the Sounders who were getting closer and Wes Charles made a crucial clearance for Vancouver after Nyassi beat Nash on the right. He stuck out his leg and fully outstretched just poked the ball out of danger.
It was now almost a matter of time before Sounders advantage paid off and in the 37th minute, it did. Montero passed to Nate Jaqua, who chested the ball expertly and slammed it past the unprotected Nolly for Sounders first goal.
Two minutes later, it was 2-0. Breton Sebastien Le Toux headed goalward and Nolly made a great save. Unfortunately for the Vancouver goalkeeper, the ball rebounded onto the head of Nate Jaqua who nodded firmly into the net.
Nolly was under fire between the second goal and the interval. Montero and Le Toux worked well but a nice one/two led to Montero firing over again.
A minute later, the Colombian Montero found Le Toux on the right with a visionary pass. Seba slipped the ball through to Jaqua but Nolly timed his run off his goalline to perfection and just got there first.
HALF TIME: SOUNDERS FC 2 : 0 VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Justin Thompson replaced Wes Charles shortly after the interval and five minutes into the second half, James Riley was fouled by substitute Ethan Gage, a product of Vancouver’s residency scheme.
Nathan Sturgis curled the free kick straight into Nolly’s gloves. Toure did little better for the Caps from a free, curling it over, after Brad Evans had fouled Charkes Gbeke outside the Sounders penalty area.
Hirano Takashi replaced Mason Trafford, who had dealt with the unenviable task of marking Sanna Nyassi superbly.
Just after the hour, Nolly’s chest saved a Jaqua shot, and as a reward perhaps, Schmid pulled Nyassi off the pitch to be replaced by Roger Levesque.
Keller however was forced into action after a poor back pass. He just got to the ball before Marco Reda. Justin Thompson showed his defensive importance to the Caps in 63 when he rose highest to head away a good Montero cross from right but a minute later came a moment that may be talked about for a little while longer.
Montero did superbly to find the right wing Nate Jaqua who brilliantly beat the offside trap. Instead of shooting, he squared to Le Toux who fired the ball into an empty goal but was ruled offside. If that was a break for the Whitecaps, then the good fortune was reversed the ball broke kindly again off Nolly’s chest in the 65th minute. Fredy Montero decided just to blast a free kick from 30 yards and it hit Nolly’s chest and cannoned away.
Fredy at the Double
But a third goal was not far away. The hard working Levesque squared the ball accurately to Montero who slid the ball past Nolly. It was a fine goal. Tiredness and the plethora of substitutions now had the Caps in disarray. Seconds after the third goal came the fourth. A speculative long range drive deflected off a defender and found Montero just on the edge of the six yard box. He blasted a drive from a very narrow angle and hit it so hard it took a second to register where the ball was. It was in the back of Jay Nolly’s goal and Seattle were 4-0 up.
After that came the inevitable raft of substitutions on 70 minutes that Sigi Schmid had told the press pack of in Portland. On came Jeff Clark, Kevin Forrest, Ryan Caugherty, Tyson Wahl, Evan Brown, Densill Theobald, Patrick Ianni, and Stephen King. Many of these players are still not signed on for a contract and their arrival did quicken the urgency in some positions as individuals tried to impress.
Levesque had two efforts blocked by courageous defending. Vancouver brought on Philippe Davies for Toure and Randy Edwini-Bonsu for Martin Nash, giving them three residency players filling their young midfield. This is a sure sign of the potential of this club even if footballing prowess alone is no guarantor of advancement.
After the substitutions, the game petered out a little. Tyrell Burgess made Kasey Keller work a little more and then five minutes from time, Roger Levesque hit the post from an angle he would have hoped to score from.
FULL TIME: SOUNDERS FC 4 : 0 VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
In the end, the result was less important than the individual performances of those still fighting for an MLS contract, and the coherency as a unit of those likely to start on March 19th. Clearly there were winners and losers tonight.
Osvaldo Alonso looks a fine defensive midfielder in the Roy Keane mould, but we didn’t see enough of those on the bubble of a MLS contract to make any further judgments. Steve Zakuani wasn’t fit for selection and that gave Seb Le Toux a chance to shine, which he took, relishing his new role on the right side of midfield.
The players have a day off before the Sounders jet off to their home from home in Argentina. The final roster cuts will be made before March 1st when the 24 name list has to be turned in to Major League Soccer’s front office. The next appearance in Seattle will be for a friendly against the Colorado Rapids on March 12th. Again it is a closed door match.
After the match, Sigi Schmid confirmed that he will have a final look in Argentina and very soon we will all know the names of the 24 men who will represent our City in their first ever MLS campaign.
Sounders FC: Kasey Keller, James Riley, Tyrone Marshall, Taylor Graham, Nathan Sturgis; Brad Evans, Sanna Nyassi, Osvaldo Alonso; Seb Le Toux, Nate Jaqua, Fredy Montero.
Subs: Chris Eylander (not used), Zach Scott, Roger Levesque, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Clark, Evan Brown, Tyson Wahl, Zach Scott, Kevin Forrest, Ryan Caugherty, Densill Theobald, Stephen King
Coach: Sigi Schmid
Vancouver Whitecaps (from): Jay Nolly, Marco Reda, Wes Knight, Mason Trafford, Wesley Charles; Vicente Arze, Martin Nash, Kernod Versailles, Ansu Toure, Marcus Haber, Charles Gbeke.
Coach: Teitur Thordarson
PROST AMERIKA MAN OF THE MATCH: OSVALDO ALONSO