MLS: WHITECAPS SURPRISE THE SOUNDERS IN SEATTLE
Vancouver claims Cascadia Cup, moves closer to playoff berth with clutch win
SEATTLE — It only took one from the Boy Wonder this time.
Teenager Kekuta Manneh scored in the 45th minute, just seconds after returning to the field after limping off with a hip problem, and the Vancouver Whitecaps held on for a crucial, Cascadia Cup- securing 1- 0 victory Friday night over the Seattle Sounders.
The Major League Soccer victory before a huge crowd of 55,765 at CenturyLink Field — the seventh- largest in Sounders’ history — allowed the Caps to retain the Cascadia Cup, emblematic of Pacific Northwest supremacy.
Manneh made a full- speed run down the left side to get onto a great pass from Pedro Morales and was clinical with his finish inside the box. But there was no celebration, just a painful- looking, Walter Brennan-like limp behind the Seattle goal.
‘ I’m still in pain,” a beaming Manneh said after the game. “I scored a goal, but I can’t take anything away from the performance of the guys today. I’m really proud of every single one of them.”
The injury was serious enough that Manneh, who broke a 17- game scoreless drought with his fourth tally of the season, didn’t return for the second half and was replaced by another teenager, residency team graduate Kianz Froese, who was making his MLS debut.
It was exactly a year ago that Manneh, then just 18, scored three goals — the youngest to ever do so in MLS history — as the Caps stunned Seattle 4- 1 to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They were eliminated a week later in Colorado.
“Maybe he’s got to play Seattle away every time,” said head coach Carl Robinson. “He was electric, had numerous chances before he scored.”
Friday’s win moved the Caps back into the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, a point up on Portland. Each team has two games remaining, with Vancouver having the easier schedule with contests against woeful San Jose ( away) and Colorado ( home).
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” said Robinson. “It puts us in a good position ... but we’ll get back to work Monday.”
The Caps are also now just two points back of fourth- place FC Dallas, who play host to the red- hot Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday. The fourth- place team hosts the fifth- place team in a single- game post- season round.
Vancouver now is 4- 0- 1 in their last five against the powerful Sounders, who entered the game with a 19- 9- 3 record, tied for first in the West with the Galaxy. The two meet home-and-away over the final two weeks of the regular season.
The Sounders, the second highest scoring team in MLS, enjoyed huge stretches of possession, particularly in the second half when the Caps rarely ventured past midfield. But they never seriously tested goalkeeper David Ousted as the back four were terrific behind the diligent midfield work of the tireless Russell Teibert and Matias Laba.
“It’s excellent discipline from them,” said Robinson of the way his club managed the second half. “The last three weeks they’ve taken responsibility on themselves and today in a tough environment, against a top team ... it’s really credit to that group in ( the locker- room). We’ve got a never- say- die attitude that they’ve instilled.”
Clint Dempsey had the best Seattle chance in the 90th minute. Ousted failed to grab a high ball in the box and it fell to the U. S. international on the left side. His ball went across the face of goal, just missing the far post.
A minute later, Kendall Waston, the Caps’ towering Costa Rican centre back, stationed a yard off the line, coolly headed a ball away.
Dempsey, one of the league’s biggest whiners, was constantly jawing with Teibert and other Caps in the game’s final minutes.
A cautious, mostly uneventful first half ended with a bang on Manneh’s 45th minute goal.
The speedy forward was taken down at midfield a minute earlier by a kick from Obafemi Martins. Manneh appeared to be favouring his left thigh or hip as he was escorted off the field by the Caps’ training staff.
Seattle went on a quick attack, but the Caps cleared just as Manneh came back on the field. Morales got the ball at midfield and spotted the Gambian Flash all alone on the left. He delivered a perfectly weighted ball that Manneh sprinted onto.
“I know the vision he has ... he sees what other people don’t see,” said Manneh. “I started running and he played the ball through. It was a great pass.”
He pulled a quick insideoutside fake on the Sounders’ centre back, then beat goalkeeper Stefan Frei from about six yards out with his left foot. There was no wild celebration though, as Manneh just limped along behind the Seattle net as teammates raced to him.
Manneh had an early chance in the 30th minute when he cut inside on Seattle fullback Brad Evans and got off a quick shot to the short side from 18 yards. But Frei made the save.
Seattle controlled much of the possession in the first half, but never really got a quality scoring chance. Vancouver centre backs Waston and Andy O’Brien were terrific in the middle denying Martins and Dempsey the ball several times with smart clearances.
“( Waston) was an absolute monster for us,” said Robinson. “Him and Andy today, Trojans they were.”