SEATTLE, WA - After last Sunday's 2-2 home draw against the Portland Timbers, the Vancouver Whitecaps' chances of making the playoffs and winning the Cascadia Cup were in dire straights. To suggest that the club had their work cut out for them ahead of Wednesday night's match at CenturyLink Field would have been an understatement of almost monumental proportions. Representatives from the Timbers Army were in attendance tonight to award the hallowed Cascadia Cup in the event of a Seattle Sounders victory, but as it turned out the cup will travel back to the Rose City tonight and will be awarded to either Vancouver or Seattle depending on the outcome of Sunday's match between the Timbers and the Sounders.
The Starting XI
After Martin Rennie's changes in personnel and a switch to a 4-4-2 diamond formation for the Portland match, many questioned whether the gaffer would follow a similar approach for this match or revert to his usual lineup and tactics. With strikers Darren Mattocks (international duty) and Kenny Miller (injury) unavailable for this match, the question was: who would play up front next to Camilo Sanvezzo?
The only change that Rennie made from the Portland match was to start rookie Kekutah Manneh for Mattocks. This meant for a second straight game regulars like Russell Teibert and Gershon Koffie started the match watching from the dug out.
The Whitecaps starting XI for tonight's match was as follows:
#VWFC XI: 22.Ousted; 12.Lee, 24.Mitchell, 6.DeMerit, 2.Harvey; 13.Reo-Coker, 27.Davidson, 14.Kobayashi, 8.Watson; 23.Manneh, 7.Sanvezzo— Whitecaps In Match (@WhitecapsMatch) October 10, 2013
The First Half
With so much at stake tonight and the recent run of poor performances, Whitecaps fans were understandably a little nervous. After the opening stage of the match, when the two sides reacquainted themselves with one another, it was the Whitecaps who took the lead in the twelfth minute when Manneh raced onto Daigo Kobayashi's header and neatly slid the ball under Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
Despite not having many goal scoring opportunities for much of the remainder of the half, Manneh again was the hero of the moment in the forty-second minute. As Camilo drew the defender over towards the right touchline he neatly knocked the ball into the path of a wide open Manneh who raced into the area and neatly tucked the ball under Gspurning to give the Caps a comfortable 2-0 lead just before the half.
The Second Half
Neither side made a change during the break, but just as Carlyle Mitchell received a yellow card for his reckless, lunging challenge on DeAndre Yedlin on the edge of the area Seattle's coach Sigi Schmid introduced their record signing, Clint Dempsey into the match. Seattle started to press more in search of a goal that would get them back into the match, but again Kobayashi and Manneh, who clearly was not satisfied with a brace, combined in the fifty-fourth minute to put Manneh into the record books and the Caps up by a score of 3-0. At eighteen years of age, Manneh is the youngest player in MLS history to record a hat trick, and he is also the first player to score three goals in a match for the Whitecaps.
A sustained period of pressure by the Sounders was rewarded in the sixty-ninth minute when Mauro Rosales managed to pull the Sounders back to within two goals. The game was finally put out of Seattle's reach in the eighty-second minute when Gspurning mishandled Nigel Reo-Coker's shot for his first goal as a Whitecap.
The Final Word
After a season when the team has consistently failed to perform in big matches, the Whitecaps defied the odds to secure a historic victory. More importantly, the three points from tonight's game are absolutely vital in keeping Vancouver's slim playoff hopes alive. In a season when luck has almost always gone against the Whitecaps, their playoff hopes were extended for at least one more week when the Colorado Rapids lost 1-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes. The Whitecaps will now play the Rapids in a two game home-and-away series to finish the MLS regular season that will ultimately decide Vancouver's playoff fate.
Man of the Match
With tonight's victory the Whitecaps now move into first place in the Cascadia Cup standings. The Cup will be awarded this Sunday evening when the Sounders travel to Portland. Seattle will have to win the match to bring the Cascadia Cup back to the Emerald City, so you can bet that the Timbers will do everything they can to prevent the Cup going home with their bitter rivals.
Also interesting to note is that the Whitecaps have now set a new record for points (45) and wins in a season (12) and can still improve on this total with two games remaining in the MLS regular season.
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