Well, that was fun, wasn't it?
Despite battling for a respectable midweek draw against Sporting Kansas City, the Vancouver Whitecaps showed little sign of fatigue against a rival they had yet to beat in Major League Soccer, registering a solid 2-0 win against the Seattle Sounders. The two-goal win puts Vancouver at the top of the table for the Cascadia Cup, tied with Seattle on points but ahead on goal differential (+1 to -1). Here's how it went down:
- Four minutes after supporters unveiled a massive Lions Gate Bridge-themed tifo, striker Kenny Miller picked up a lovely aerial from Corey Hertzog and stroked a clinical shot past Michael Gspurning's outstretched hands and inside the far post: 1-0. Watching the replay angles, you really get a sense of the technique to put just enough curl on the ball to get it in. The ball dips out past Gspurning, then back in to stay inside the post. Beautiful.
- The early game saw plenty of play through the midfield - a tactic that would've been suicide had Osvaldo Alonso been fit to play. As it was, Vancouver did end up revering to flank play once the Sounders began collapsing hard to the midfield.
- To be fair, Vancouver did plenty of collapsing of their own, allowing Seattle to bomb back downfield on repeated counterattacks. Jun Marques Davidson was at his best tonight, making plenty of key challenges to break up attacks and either regain possession or launch a counter attack the other way. He had plenty of practice, too, since Seattle had little to no qualms about launching players forward all game. Thankfully, the only truly threatening moment was a 40th-minute waltz into the area by Lamar Neagle which thankfully came to nothing.
- While Davidson was good, he was far from the defensive star of the night. A rightly deserved "Player of the Match" nod went to Brad Knighton, who made some absolutely brilliant saves to preserve the clean sheet. His save in close on Eddie Johnson in the 22nd minute led to a corner, which Knighton grabbed out of the air from his back as the ball drifted dangerously towards the goal line. Then, in the 26th minute, Knighton made a "Save of the Week"-candidate double-save, stoning Eddie Johnson with an aggressive sliding save and robbing Obafemi Martins on the rebound by getting just enough of the shot near the top of the penalty area to deflect it wide.
- Shortly afterwards, the TSN broadcast cut to a shot of Joe Cannon on the bench because television crews love schadenfreude.
- In case we needed a reminder, Nigel Reo-Coker showed why he should be in midfield all the time, going box-to-box with aplomb, driving the offense and sealing up the defense alonside Davidson. In one memorable moment, he went one-on-four to win a ball - successfully, I might add - and gently tapped it over to Gershon Koffie to regain possession.
- Speaking of Koffie, in my mind, he had an off game on both sides of the ball. He took two overly ambitious shots on goal, skying both of them to the point where the upper-deck tarps in BC Place now have soccer ball-sized holes in them. Likewise, he was cheap in possession and was something of a defensive liability; luckily, Reo-Coker and Davidson were in fine form and Koffie's indiscretions had minimal impact on the game.
- During the half-time replay montage, TSN showed a bizarre clip of Knighton doing a happy hillbilly jig of some sort. I can only assume this was in response to a ridiculous save and was directed at the back of Eddie Johnson's ugly blond(?!) head. Seriously, the dude's hair was hilariously bad.
- Neagle earned himself a yellow card in the 60th minute for a tackle that would take Hertzog out of the game with an ankle sprain. Daigo Kobayashi was summoned to enter the game and ended up having a good run out, showing signs of creativity and pace that we'd all hoped he'd contribute on a nightly basis. It makes you wonder if "super-sub" might be Kobayashi's new role in the future.
- Koffie's one bright spot on the night was an assist on the second Vancouver goal. After Darren Mattocks (whose hair no longer resembles a "Sly and the Family Stone" cover band) came in for Camilo in the 76th minute, Mattocks latched onto a Koffie through ball in the 79th minute and chipped it over and past Gspurning, landing it inside the far post in a slightly more airborne version of Miller's opener: 2-0.
- It was a great moment for Mattocks, who celebrated the rest of the game by firing balls at the net whenever he got the chance. He would get many chances, as Seattle opened up to try and find goals of their own. This allowed Mattocks, Miller, Reo-Coker and Kobayashi to counter-attack seemingly at will, though it ultimately came for naught.
- Matt Watson got a nominal, clock-killing run-out, subbing in for Kenny Miller in stoppage time. This gave the BC Place crowd a chance to stand and applaud Miller, who gave another performance to be proud of. Remember when we wanted this guy packed and shipped out on the first flight? Ah, memories.
- For reasons I'm not entirely certain of, not only did Brad Knighton swap jerseys with Eddie Johnson at full-time, he then proceeded to wear the jersey inside-out. The sight of Knighton in rave green made ill. So help me, David Ousted, if your arrival ends up sending Knighton to Seattle, I will not be a happy person.
- Finally, spare a thought for our dear leader, Jon Szekeres, who missed the game (and thus passed post-game duties off to me) due to a sprained ankle. Even Whitecaps blogs are susceptible to an injury crisis, it would seem.