For the second time this season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC welcomed their Cascadian cousins, the league leading Seattle Sounders FC. Last time around, the Caps fell victim of a controversial penalty decision, and dropped two points.
This time, they didn't give Seattle the chance to steal a point, as they rarely allowed the Sounders to get into the final third. Statistically speaking, the Caps had a healthy lead over their rivals in terms of duels won (62-46), tackles won (19-11), clearances (27-13), fouls (12-21), and shots on target (6-2).
On the whole, Seattle had a 0.4% lead in possession, but that largely came from a five minute spell, between the 30th and 35th minute, where the Sounders had almost 90% of the ball.
And although the Sounders were without the services of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Osvaldo Alonso, and DeAndre Yedlin, they were still able to field a starting line-up that cost 1.7 million. Pedro Morales put the Whitecaps well above that, but without him, the rest of their starting eleven cost 1.5 million. And less we forget, the Caps were missing Andy O'Brien and their Captain, Jay DeMerit.
Before the match, the Vancouver Southsiders unveiled a new tifo in honour the Caps four Cascadia Cups. With tonight's victory, the Caps move five points up on Seattle, and six ahead of Portland.
Should the Sounders and Timbers split the points in July and August, Vancouver can clinch their fifth Cascadia Cup with a win at home against the Portland Timbers on August 30th.
With Pedro Morales, Sebastián Fernández, Matías Laba, Nicolás Mezquida, Johnny Leverón, Erik Hurtado, and Omar Salgado contributing this season, can we really be faulted for thinking of it as the Quest for La Quinta?
In the 12th minute, Morales formed a triangle with Gershon Koffie and Steven Beitashour, who recently returned from international duty at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The triangle proved quite effective, managing to keep the ball away from Marco Pappa, Chad Barrett, Brad Evans, and Micheal Azira. When four Sounders proved insufficient to win the ball from three Whitecaps, eight were employed, converging on Morales. But Pedro was not abandoned by his teammates. Hurtado and Fernández came to his rescue, offering up passing lanes.
Morales sent the ball to Fernández, who noticed a small gap in the middle of the Seattle defence. He fired a shot high into the corner of the near post, beating Seattle keeper Stefan Frei, who thanks to the screen of his own players, didn't react until it was already too late.
In the 19th minute, Evans fluffed a clearing attempt in his own box. Centre back Carlyle Mitchell was the closest Whitecap, and took a low shot that seemed to be heading home for a second goal, but Seattle's Chad Marshall bravely threw himself in front of the ball, managing a deflection, which the Sounders were able to deal with.
Although most of the play in the first half was in the Vancouver half, very little of it ended up in the final third; with the Whitecaps bottling Seattle attack in the middle of the park.
It was nice to note that Fernández and Hurtado formed the basis of a solid partnership on the right side, showing the promise of what's to come. Hurtado timed his runs to perfection. In fact, the Whitecaps had only one offside during the entire match.
However, Hurtado was a marked man. Every time he got near the ball, the Seattle defence tried to close him down. A five match scoring streak with do that to a young player, just as Kekuta Manneh struggled after becoming the youngest MLS player to ever score a hat trick, as he did last year in Seattle.
With O'Brien and DeMerit out, it was Leverón and Mitchell who helped David Ousted's to preserve the clean sheet. And while both are still prone to mistakes in judgement, that will come in time.
They may not be as young as many of us think of them, Leverón being 24 and Mitchell 26, but with O'Brien and DeMerit ahead of them on the depth chart, finding playing time can be difficult.
Between them and the 21-year old Christian Dean, who made a cameo appearance in stoppage time, the Whitecaps should be comfortable at the back for years to come.
On Saturday, CD Chivas will make their final trip to Vancouver as CD Chivas. We don't know what the club will be called next year, but it won't be Chivas. And while it's a long shot, we're hoping they adopt the black, white, and gold of Hollywood United FC.