The season of the rivalry has come to this. A Sounders victory in Vancouver and the Cascadia Cup goes to Seattle. A draw or loss, and Sounders leave Cascadia Cup celebrations to hope. Which, is like dry timber surviving a lightning storm, a small craft in soaring winds, sailing in high swells, or a happy school of salmon avoiding trawlers nets. Cascadia worries aside, the Sounders would secure the cup and further improve their playoff position.
MLS Breaking News
Sounders make MLS playoffs for third consecutive year. Last night’s match, (Friday 9/23), between Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City ended in a 1-1 draw. The draw secured Seattle’s third consecutive playoff appearance. With playoff acquisition behind them, the match with Vancouver remains critical. Finishing above Real Salt Lake and Colorado secures home field advantage in the first round of the MLS Playoffs.
Side note. Philadelphia’s lone goal was scored by beloved former Sounder, Sebastian Le Toux. A gift from one Sounder to another.
Now back to our regularly scheduled, but ir-regularly minded Cascadia Cup Clash.
A Major League Soccer moment in history was marked in their first meeting, June 11th at Qwest Field. Eric Hassli converted a first half penalty and Vancouver led 1-nil through the 80th minute. With a major upset only 10 minutes away, Tyson Wahl crossed a ball into the box from the left-flank, where Nate Jacqua brilliantly flicked on to Mauro Rosales for a finely finished volley.
The Sounders could have easily settled for happy-relief with the 81st minute equalizing draw. Instead, Osvaldo Alonso stole the ball outside the box in the 84th minute, slotting a shot inside the near post. With Seattle now holding a late 2-1 lead, it appeared they had stolen another exciting, nail-biting victory.
Eric Hassli decided to make history. (see video) Osvaldo Alonso, the hero, doesn’t make many mistakes. Receiving a pass at the right corner of the Sounders penalty box for a simple clearance, he misplayed the ball. Hasli immediately picked up the loose ball, flicked it up to himself, and from above the right corner of the penalty area, volleyed a shot that not only hit net, but has earned nearly 5,000,000 YouTube hits worldwide.
Many call this the “Goal of the Year”. Some now call it the best in MLS history. Either way, the goal is so outstanding, Qwest Field was renamed CenturyLink.
Video – Eric Hassli’s goal to remember
The good, the bad, the ugly of Eric Hassli. Even ugly, he is as entertaining a soccer player as Major League Soccer has ever had. He wears the passion for the game on his arm. He’s hot on the ball and hot-headed. Everything a striker needs to be. First season in MLS and he’s accumulated 10 goals, 6 yellow-cards, and 3 red-card ejections. It’s quite likely, if not certain, as seen in their first meeting, the Sounders will see Hassli add to those stats.
Vancouver whitecaps’ 4-win, 14-loss, 10-draw record, lowest seed in Major League Soccer, is no reflection of their talent on the field. Hassli, Camilo, and Chiumiento have joined for 20 goals and 12 assists. Their offense is potent and earns its goals in the run of play as well as any club in Major League Soccer. Compared with the more successful, but set-piece oriented Portland Timbers, and you wonder what holds them back. Their defense and goal-keeping are their weakness. Attack minded clubs, like Seattle, expose those weaknesses. No doubt defense is the key to Vancouver’s improvement for next season.
When rivals meet, season totals reset to zero. For tonight, Vancouver has one emotional stat in their favor. This rivalry dates to 1974, when both teams joined the NASL. Vancouver’s home field for much of their history has been at Empire Field, where tonight’s match takes place.
While Seattle is in the playoffs, Vancouver is out. Seattle has 14-wins to Vancouver’s 4. Sounders set a new club high-mark for season points, with 51 and climbing. Vancouver is at 22. But forget it all. Vancouver has an emotional weapon. Tonight is their last match at Empire Field. Their home for much of their 37 years of professional soccer. History has a way of adding emotional adrenaline to match-day adrenaline. Something the Sounders can best calm with early goals.
At 51 points, 46 goals, and 14 wins the Sounders excellence so far this season has them poised and fighting for home-filed playoff positioning. Their stakes remain high, even with Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City assisting their playoff certainty last night.
Mauro Rosales will not be available due to his MCL injury suffered in last week’s match with DC United. Pressure to fill his boots likely falls on Fernandez, Friberg and Neagle. Sigi Schmid has been resourceful juggling his clubs depth to fight off many injuries all season long. Each match has posed a new lineup challenge. Schmid has succeeded at meeting those challenges throughout the season. Tonight will be another regular lineup challenge. The emotional crowd of Empire Field, desire to lift a rivalry trophy, and improve their playoff position will be anything but a regular challenge for both clubs. Normal for Cascadia.
Cascadia Cup Standings
Sounders: 1-W, O-L, 2-D = 5pts (one match remaining @ Vancouver)
Portland: 1-W, 1-L, 1-D = 4pts (one match remaining @ Vancouver)
Vancouver: 0-W, 1-D, 1-L = 1pt (two matches remaining vs Seattle, vs Portland)
© Sales on Sounders – 2011 by Ryan Sales