Omar Salgado gets by everybody on his way to the first goal of the game against the Seattle Sounders. (Benjamin Massey/Eighty Six Forever)
If we'd lost, the match would have been meaningless. Now that we've won, it is the most important thing that has ever happened.
I kid, of course. Both the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Seattle Sounders came out with a heaping teaspoon full of second-stringers in this, the final match of the Cascadia Pre-Season Tournament Supporters Summit Thing, and the fact that the Whitecaps' bench-warmers got the better of it is promising but by no means significant. Our man of the match, Omar Salgado, had a goal, an assist, looked terrific, and won't be eligible to play for us until September. It's important not to draw too many conclusions from this sort of game since it's not like we'll see these conditions in the regular season.
Still, for what it was worth, that was fantastic. Our bench guys went up against their bench guys and did very well for themselves. The two teams battled hard, kept it close, and in the dying minutes it looked like Seattle might be able to snatch one back. But they didn't, we got some heroics and some steadfast defense, and that means we got a 3-2 victory over the Sounders. Vancouver and Portland wind up tied for first in this fake tournament, and the only consolation the hosting Sounders get is a victory in a U-18 game.
I liked this!
I must give a brief look to the match between the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency and the Seattle Sounders U-18s which kicked off at noon. Vancouver were playing below their full strength, with many of their best players unavailable: neither Ridge Mobulu, La'vere Corbin-Ong, nor Randy Edwini-Bonsu were anywhere to be found while Bryce Alderson and Doudou Toure got only brief appearances in the second half. All the same, they had the balance of the scoring chances against the Sounders kids and were let down by some poor finishing and mental lapses.
The final score wound up 4-3 to the Sounders U-18s, with all seven goals scored in the second half. I won't dissect the Sounder U-18 performance that much since, frankly, I didn't know who any of their kids were. But the Whitecaps Residency got a sterling performance from central midfielder Kevin Cobby, wearing the #6 shirt and simply dominating both physically and technically. He was easily the winner of my traditional "He Looks Too Good to Be In This Game" award: he was virtually toying with the Sounders and seemingly just enjoying his run out. Doudou Toure came a close second. His goal was a sublime piece of accuracy: after the Sounders U-18 goalie was caught flat-footed, Toure rounded him but was taken out wide by the defender. Not to be put off, Toure got almost to the touch line and rifled a shot while he was maybe eighteen inches from going out of bounds. Somehow, the shot just got into the near post: it was a sublime finish. On the other hand, Toure also pretty much jogged for the entire game and seemed like he knew exactly what was at stake. Coulton Jackson and Yassin Essa bagged the other two.
The Whitecaps Residency's next-strongest performers were both wide players: left fullback Adam Polakiewicz and left midfielder Matteo Pasquotti put on extremely strong defensive performances while Pasquotti added some very dangerous chances coming down the wing on the counter. Polakiewicz showed some physical edge I wasn't aware he possessed; I joked that he looked like Terry Dunfield's illegitimate son and coming from me that's a real compliment. He made some... well, since he was on my team I'll call them intense tackles and leave it at that. If I were a Sounders fan I'd probably want to light him on fire.
When the senior game began that afternoon, it was like the big boys had seen the exciting youth game and decided to go with the flow. Omar Salgado, that 17-year-old sultan of sublime scoring, got us off on the right foot. He corralled a (somewhat fortunate) deflection off a Sounders defender and was just off to the races, sprinting down the pitch before anyone could catch him and tucking the shot past Terry Boss as calmly as you please. It could not have been any more perfect. Mere minutes later, another teenager showed some enterprise as Russell Teibert slammed a shot from well out wide on the left that went right through Boss's hands, giving the Whitecaps two goals from two players not old enough to drink.
Teibert's goal was a little fortunate, but really it was no less than he deserved. In spite of Salgado's spectacular goal and a later assist, the 17-year-old Teibert was my pick for man of the match. I can see what all the fuss was about; I've seen Russell Teibert play before but I've never seen him play like that. He's a small player, but with a big striker up front in Salgado to take the pressure off and some great support from a central midfield of Alexandre Morfaw and Gershon Koffie Teibert looked in his element. The Sounders didn't play Teibert particularly physically, which might have helped, but I'm not going to complain. Teibert was excellent. He should be signed to a contract, and I don't mean for the Residency.
The Whitecaps were 2-0 up before the quarter-hour mark and life was good, but it wasn't all hunky-dorey. The referee at the match was Dave Gantar. I don't like Dave Gantar; he refereed last year's infamous season-ending playoff loss to the Puerto Rico Islanders, and the year before's infamous season-ending playoff loss to the Montreal Impact. In both games (and in more than a few regular season contests), Gantar shoved his head up his ass and tried to ref from that position. I wouldn't say he's biased against the Whitecaps, but he is both unbelievably incompetent and seemingly convinced the Whitecaps are the dirtiest bastards in sports since Ric Flair. This is the first time I can remember Dave Gantar officiating a game that the Whitecaps wound up winning. I'm sure the Sounders have their complaints about the refereeing too, but remember: Gantar isn't biased, he's just unbelievably terrible.
We couldn't blame Gantar for former Seattle Sounders USL benchwarmer Roger Levesque's goal just before half, as the Whitecaps simply failed to clear the ball on a corner despite numerous opportunities. We could blame Gantar for the number of seemingly-random calls and no-calls. Salgado and Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo were being held onto so tightly by the Seattle defense it was like the Sounders wanted to swap shirts early; nothing. Meanwhile, Wes Knight in particular was victimized by a number of perfidious dives from the Sounders that were called against him. Yet, to be fair, Michael Boxall (who was very, very good) would shoulder-charge a Seattle attacker to the ground and get no call because, again, Dave Gantar is shit.
Luckily, the Whitecaps made amends when the aforementioned Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo, who I keep calling that because it seems like he should be called Camilo but the Whitecaps insist he's Sanvezzo, put away an Omar Salgado setup to make it 3-1. Sanvezzo had a mixed game. On the one hand he scored on his only real opportunity and was constantly active enough to keep the Sounders defense on their toes. On the other hand he was clearly gunning for a contract and looking out a little too hard for his own stats. He's come barging down the wing with Salgado wide open in the middle, the Southsiders howling at Sanvezzo to make the pass, and instead he'd try to do it himself and run straight into the defense. He constantly seemed genuinely unwilling to pass or defer to a teammate, even when the teammate was in a better position. I'm not sure whether that's the way he plays or whether it was the tunnel vision of a guy trying to win himself an MLS signing but either way it wasn't impressive. A good game on balance, though.
Through the hour mark the Whitecaps had a distinct edge in play but after Sanvezzo's goal, the Sounders started to tilt the field in their direction. They'd had a few chances throughout the game, and Jay Nolly had more than made amends for his gaffe against Portland with some sterling saves. Joe Cannon and his pornographer's beard came into goal at halftime and was, if anything, even better. He had to be, as the Sounders started to test him. Miguel Montano scored 77 minutes in (on a play set up by Roger Levesque that looked offside from where I was standing), and we had a game on.
Much of the Sounders' offense came because of the tactical differences between the two coaches. Sigi Schmid was clearly going for the win, bringing on attacking players like Montano, Osvaldo Alonzo, and Steve Zakuani. The most significant defensive change Teitur Thordarson made was taking out Alex Morfaw for Terry Dunfield, and even Dunfield was clearly playing conservatively and not risking injury. Poor Greg Janicki wound up playing over 180 minutes in two days and he's not quick enough at the best of times. Wes Knight didn't play much less, and when he came out it was for Jonathan Leathers who also wore himself out yesterday. Leathers really struggled when he came on, and the Sounders made great gains down the right after Knight had done a good job of holding them in check.
Luckily, Vancouver continued to hold on, although there were some tense moments. The fourth official added a hysterically inappropriate six minutes of added time, and Dave Gantar added more than two more off his own accord: it was obviously Sounders Time for the home team to try and get an equalizer. Luckily they didn't, and the Whitecaps came away with a 3-2 victory.
And now, for some old running features I forgot about yesterday.
Game Ball: As I mentioned up top, Russell Teibert was the best all-round Whitecap in every department. He was quick, his distribution was first-class, he scored himself, he hit free kicks very well and whenever he had the ball the Sounders went into virtual panic mode trying to stop him. That's the best you can ask of a winger. By Russell Teibert standards, I was also impressed by both his defense and his conditioning, two traditional weaknesses of his. There really were no flaws to his game.
Most Disappointing: Jonathan Leathers didn't play long enough to get the nod, so it goes instead to Nizar Khalfan. Playing the right wing, Khalfan spent most of the game misplaying the ball. He took a yellow card for kicking it into the goal after an offside and was a defensive liability. Given what Khalfan achieved for the Whitecaps last season, I really expected more and was let down not to get it. Of course, his replacement Cornelius Stewart was if anything even worse, but Stewart had less time on the pitch.
Next Up: the Whitecaps take on the Colorado Rapids in a closed-door friendly at Empire on Saturday, and then... March 19.