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Cascadia Cup Remains In Vancouver's Hands - For Now

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It's never an boring affair when Upper and Middle Cascadia go head to head. This time, the lads in white did what has become a welcome tradition against the rave green opposition: embarrass Seattle in their home.

This man scored a beautiful brace. No, not the striker - the defender. No, I can't believe it either.
This man scored a beautiful brace. No, not the striker - the defender. No, I can't believe it either.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Going into this match, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders were fully aware of the implications on the Cascadia Cup. A Seattle win and the Cup is theirs. A draw or Vancouver win and everything is still to play for. Tension? Stakes? Rivalry? Bad blood? Three more meetings after this across all competitions? Let's do this.

Early on, Mezquida earned the ire of the Sounders by bringing his arm up during an aerial challenge with Gonzalo Pineda. I wouldn't have been surprised to see a card of any colour shown for that challenge but Mark Geiger - a referee with no small number of eyes glued to him these days - opted to whistle for just the foul. It would prove to be a decisive call as, a short while later, Mezquida took a free kick deep in Seattle territory following a foul drawn by Cristian Techera. The lob was flicked on awkwardly by Kendall Waston and blocked by the Seattle defense but not cleared. Fortuitously, the ball popped up towards Pa Modou Kah and the defender took a first-time volley(!) that found its way past Stefan Frei and into the back of the net. It was a dream start for the 'Caps - 1-0 before 10 minutes!

A brief aside about set pieces; one, that's the second match in a row that a defender has scored from a set piece for Vancouver. While I'm not about to trumpet that the Whitecaps' set piece woes have been solved, it's certainly a positive sign. Two, can we just give all set piece duties to Mezquida from now on? Of all the specialists on Vancouver's roster, Mezquida has been the most consistently threatening in the few chances he's had from dead ball situations. Why not just hand over the keys to the car permanently and let the young Uruguayan drive?

Following the goal, the 'Caps transitioned into that dangerous style of play we've seen them be burned by so many times before: passive, low-tempo, possession-based soccer. Seattle took advantage quickly and began forcing the issue in the attacking third. Some key interventions from Kah and Waston were required and, before long, Vancouver perhaps learned their lesson and went back to their more entertaining brand of soccer which kept the Sounders much more honest.

Entertaining as they were, Vancouver failed to produce further goals in the first half. To be fair, neither did the Sounders; in fact, neither side got any quality looks as the defenders and battling midfielders from both squads shut down any threatening attacks. There were some interesting moments, though: the stare-down between Gershon Koffie and Clint Dempsey; the charging run into the penalty area by Octavio Rivero that was part-defended, part-scuffed; Jordan Harvey rattling the near post with a laser of a shot on a counter-attack; and Kah committing what looked like a handball (I'd call it ball-to-hand but there was certainly contact) on a Seattle corner that went undetected by the officials.

The halftime stats were mostly kind to Vancouver: six shots apiece but Vancouver had four on target to Seattle's two. Seattle bossed possession with 64%, though with their zero goals to show for it I think we can safely call possession a false metric in the modern game.

Speaking of meta-breaking truisms, try this one on for size: Pa Modou Kah, Goal Machine. Yes, the Gambian-Norwegian was at it again at the start of the second half off of yet another set piece - this one as slick and dirty as an oil-filled mud puddle. Techera took the corner short, where a waiting Kekuta Manneh at the edge of the area played the ball back out wide. A charging Techera then hammered a low pass into the area which Kah smartly redirected with a backheel(?!) into the net at the far post. Apparently, Kah, who celebrated his 35th birthday recently, has decided to go full style-mode instead of his usual bruising. A volley goal, a backheel goal... if this is modern defending, I like it. Even Jordan Harvey wanted in on the action, going for an ambitious overhead kick(?!?!? WHAT IS GOING ON?!?) off a Techera free kick. While the flicked-on header from Waston on the initial kick did make its way towards Harvey, Chad Marshall was quick to defend it leaving Harvey to flail acrobatically for nothing.

In case you'd forgotten, this is a rivalry match and emotions began to bubble up as the hour mark approached. Challenges started to get heavier, including a nasty elbow thrown by Rivero into Pineda's eye that would ultimately end the Sounder's night. Brad Evans got in the act too, leaving a trailing leg on a Rivero run that brought down the striker for a free kick but nothing more - despite the vocal protestations from both sides ("I did nothing wrong!" "That's a yellow!"). Mezquida then stepped up and smashed his free kick through the wall but couldn't find a way past the near post.

Mezquida eventually was the first sub taken off for Vancouver, signalling the entry of Pedro Morales with under 20 minutes to play. It was a good shift for Mezquida, with plenty of creative energy and ideas on display. It's clear Mezquida isn't yet a full-90 player - at least not an effective full-90 - but with what time he has, he's proving he can do great things. In that sense, he's like an early-days inverse Manneh; take that for what it's worth.

In the time it took me to write that paragraph, Morales promptly stepped up to take a free kick - one won by Manneh after a knifing run was ended by a Osvaldo Alonso bodycheck that earned the midfielder a yellow - and buried it near post past a diving Frei. That's three goals - three! - from set pieces, with Morales' wall-splitting bender invalidating a lot of my "maybe we should hand the set piece keys to Mezquida" arguments from before. Frei had every right to be furious with his defenders; if you'll look up, Mezquida's direct free kick that rattled the post was also through the collapsing Seattle wall. Morales' strike, however, did find the back of the net, meaning the rave green men's blushes were suitably punished.

Mattocks then made his entry into the match, replacing former Sounder-killer Manneh. The younger Gambian had less of a direct impact than he usual does on these derby matches at the CLink, though he did provide the secondary assist on Kah's second goal and earned the free kick that set up Morales' goal. So, all in all, not a bad night for Manneh. He's showing more and more signs of intelligent play as this season progresses, with improvement coming in leaps and bounds as opposed to incremental change of years past. This is a Very Good Thing™, in case you were wondering.

Seattle weren't about to leave without a fight (unlike Seattle's fans, who were leaving en masse well before the 90th minute) and got their best chance of the evening on a free kick. The delivery found Clint Dempsey diving at a far post header but the USMNT veteran sent the ball back across the face of goal, nowhere close to threatening David Ousted. With time winding down and not wanting to leave anything to chance, Carl Robinson made his last substitution and brought in Russell Teibert for Cristian Techera. El Bicho had another great game, not only from dead ball situations but defensively; Techera made more than a few runs back to assist his midfield, which is no small feat when you're, well, small. From there, it was business as usual for Vancouver who frustrated all of Seattle's attempts - perhaps a few too many attempts for my liking, but not as many as some days where the 'Caps have turned off and let the opposition get their looks on goal. In short order, the final whistle blew, signalling a well deserved 3-0 win for Vancouver.

Should Seattle lose to or draw Portland (and they very well may at this rate), a draw against Vancouver in their final MLS meeting will ensure the Cascadia Cup's home north of the border for another year. Otherwise, Vancouver needs to win at home to secure the silverware. If they can play like they did tonight, I like the Whitecaps' chances.

Game Summary

GOALS
6' - (VAN) Pa Modou Kah
49' - (VAN) Pa Modou Kah (Cristian Techera, Kekuta Manneh)
75' - (VAN) Pedro Morales

DISCIPLINE
53' - YEL (SEA) Clint Dempsey, foul
67' - YEL (VAN) Kendall Waston, foul
74' - YEL (SEA) Osvaldo Alonso, foul

SUBSTITUTIONS
60' - (SEA) Cristian Roldan for Gonzalo Pineda
63' - (SEA) Lamar Neagle for Chad Barrett
72' - (VAN) Pedro Morales for Nicolas Mezquida
76' - (SEA) Andy Rose for Thomas
79' - (VAN) Darren Mattocks for Kekuta Manneh
86' - (VAN) Russell Teibert for Cristian Techera