In the wake of two consecutive blankings, and a total of 180 minutes of disturbingly poor play from the Whitecaps, Vancouver soccer fans had been looking toward tonight's match versus the Seattle Sounders with a not-so-healthy degree of trepidation and breath-holding.
It's time to breathe again, folks.
The Caps snapped their two-game skid, with a 1-0 home win over their Cascadian guests, and in the process snapped themselves out of the uninspired funk that had mysteriously settled over the team recently.
From the opening kickoff it was clear that the Caps had been granted a clean bill of health, as they came out energetic, pressed high, and were linking up at pace. The central nervous system consisting of Mathias Laba, Gershon Koffie, and Pedro Morales, in particular, brought their "A" games.
In possession, Seattle was forced to try to work it wide pretty much all evening - rather unsuccessfully. When the Caps had the ball, we saw a resumption of the fast-paced transition, quick interplay, and killer through balls from Morales, who again wore the captain's armband tonight.
The Caps almost opened the scoring just a minute and change into the match when Sebastian Fernandez beat the high line being played by Chad Marshall, and sent a threaded ball between CB Zach Scott and LB Leo Gonzalez onto the path of Erik Hurtado. An alert Stefan Frei raced off his line and just beat Hurtado who'd gotten well in behind the Sounders defense.
At 6' Morales tried a similar play for Kekutah Manneh, but again Frei was quick to see the danger, and cleared the danger just outside the top of the box.
The only goal of the match came six minutes later when Fernandez put his laces through the ball from 30 yards out. His vicious knuckling swerer - somewhat reminiscent of his marker against New York in the season opener - beat a wrong-footed Frei high to his left.
Vancouver controlled the first half from there. At the 30' mark, Vancouver had almost 60% of the possession with the Caps relentlessly causing turnovers, and soaking up recoveries all over the pitch.
The Sounders tried to make a game of it in the second half, but without key starters Clint Dempsey, Obefami Martins, and DeAndre Yedlin (who haven't rejoined the club yet following their World Cup stints), or midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda (yellow card accumulations), the Sounders rarely tested Vancouver's David Ousted, who earned his fourth clean sheet of the season.
Shots On Target: Vancouver 6, Seattle 2
Duels won: Vancouver 62, Seattle 46
Tackles won: Vancouver 19, Seattle 11
Fouls: Vancouver 12, Seattle 21
Critics will say the Caps should really have potted more goals against what amounted to half the regular starting XI, and they're probably right. Still, the Caps were without their starting CBs, as Jay DeMerit continues to be sidelined with an ankle injury, and Andy O'Brien was also out with a strain.
Nonetheless, the win gives the Caps some lost momentum, and closes the team to within one point of both Dallas and Colorado - tied for third in the Western Conference. Vancouver has three games in hand on Dallas, and two in hand on Colorado.
Next up for the Caps: Chivas under the Bell hole at BC Place.