May 20, 2012
Sounders draw Caps with last-minute marker
By HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER - It wasn't as climactic as the Champions League final.
The thrilling extra time session was missing. The dramatic penalty kicks weren't needed. There were no trophies awarded and no champions crowned.
But like the UEFA classic that preceded and overlapped it Saturday, the clash between the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders at BC Place was compelling in its own right.
On a day rife with soccer news, the cross-border rivals at least saw their heated battle make Pacific Northwest headlines, as their matchup, too, was capped by a late equalizer from the visitors.
Seattle's Fredy Montero scored the stunning marker in the 90th minute, fooling goalkeeper Joe Cannon for his fourth goal of the season. Assisted by Eddie Johnson, the tally prevented the Whitecaps from defeating the Sounders for the first time in MLS action. Instead, the two clubs played to a 2-2 draw, thus keeping the gap between the two sides to five points in the Western Conference.
Billed as the first meeting of the Cascadia Cup this season, the intensity at the open-roof stadium was palpable. The crowd noise was commendable. The result, however, was unacceptable — at least from Vancouver's standpoint.
"We're here to be the best, we're not here to tie games," Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie said. "This afternoon was for us to see where we compare, how far we've come so far and against one of the league's top teams. We're just as disappointed we didn't take more from them because we know we were right there with them.
"We made a couple little technical breakdowns which cost us the win and that's always frustrating."
The Sounders' heart-breaking strike in the final minutes came moments after the Whitecaps had pulled ahead themselves. Camilo, who had subbed on two minutes earlier, swung in a free kick from close to 30 yards out that appeared to elude the crowd of players in the box and went past goalkeeper Bryan Meredith. Although the goal was originally credited to the Brazilian forward, midfielder Gershon Koffie claimed afterwards that he made a "slight touch" with his forehead before the ball found the back of the net. The goal remains listed as Camilo's.
Either way, the fourth-place Whitecaps failed to capitalize on their pair of tallies against the stingiest squad in the league, who allowed two goals for the first time this season.
"It's kind of a bittersweet game," Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit said. "You still get a point so I guess that's a positive, it's better than losing. When you tie games like that, it hurts a little bit more.”
Then again, it added to the excitement for the sold-out crowd of 21,000 — including a boisterous section of about 1,000 Sounders fans who made the trek up from the Emerald City.
"It was open, it was fun, it must have been great for the supporters to go and see a game like that," DeMerit said. "It's exactly what the MLS should be. It's a credit to the two teams and the rivalry we're creating here. Ultimately, we deserved more than we got tonight."
Vancouver rewarded the strong showing early, as Alain Rochat scored the critical opener in the 12th minute, taking an Omar Salgado left-footed feed down the left flank. Unmarked, the Canadian defender beat Meredith from six yards out for his first goal of the season.
After Whitecaps forward Darren Mattocks, who was making his first start of the season, shot just wide of the goal on a glorious opportunity in the 41st minute, the teams ended the first half with Vancouver holding onto the one-goal lead.
But Seattle didn't take long to respond.
Just two minutes into the second half, Johnson finished a header off a nice feed from Sounders captain Mauro Rosales to tie the game at one.
The visitors then continued to apply pressure, forcing Cannon to make a couple impressive saves on Montero before Camilo's goal.
Mattocks and Eric Hassli — who subbed in for Mattocks — both had opportunities from just outside the six yard box to score as well. Neither converted as Vancouver had 11 attempts on goal with just two on target.
"That's the life of a striker," said Mattocks, who led the team with three shots. "Unfortunately I was unlucky on a couple of opportunities that I missed. But I just got to look forward and move on."
The Whitecaps, who are 3-1-1 in their last five MLS games, will now shift focus to the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship as they head to Hogtown to face Toronto FC Wednesday. The two sides played to a 1-1 draw in Vancouver this past week.