As I cross the Cambie Street bridge enjoying the walk to BC Place there’s a real buzz in the air, I’m here to see the Vancouver Whitecaps take on the Seattle Sounders. The ‘Caps have never beaten Seattle since they entered the MLS in 2010. It’s an itch that every Caps fan wants to scratch, when I asked Josh and Lynn from Abbotsford what they thought about the chance of a first victory the word they both used was “hopeful” Josh said “We are on a good run now over the last month with 3 wins and 1 tie but Seattle seem to have some hoodoo over us. I’m just hopeful.”
It’s true that the Caps are one of the form teams in the MLS right now having scored 9 goals in 4 games prior to this evening. The Sounders have won 3 of their last 4 with a defeat to Real Salt Lake a knock to them achieving any kind of consistency. With that said the fans start to gather around the stadium, I’m at Terry Fox Plaza where I’m lucky enough to witness the ‘Caps hardcore march down Robson Street belting out ‘Country Roads’ waving banners of their favourite stars. You can feel every ‘Caps fan beam with pride, these fans don’t seem hopeful they expect.
As we enter the stadium and take our seats the teams warm up as do the fans vocal chords. It’s amazing the numbers who turn out to witness this spectacle, with kick off about to start and 22,500 souls ready to cheer their respective teams on the atmosphere is electric.
The Whitecaps start the game at a ferocious pace with the Sounders struggling to get on the ball, a wonderfully timed ball over the top by Corey Hertzog was latched onto by the ever alert Kenny Miller who cut inside his marker and curled the ball around the keeper to put his team in front after 4 minutes.
Hertzog continued to be a source of trouble for the Sounders as he linked up play well between the midfield and front men, this young Pennsylvania native is one for the future and has a developed maturity in his game. It took about a quarter of an hour for Seattle to make any impression on the game and they finally started to gain control of the middle of the park with Shalrie Joseph doing the grunt work of breaking up ‘Caps possession and getting the ball out to his wide men.
With Johnson and Martins up front it was never going to be plain sailing for the home side. It looked like they would equalize on half a dozen occasions but Brad Knighton was a constant reminder to them why the Whitecaps remain undefeated at home this season. As the defence strained and buckled under the pace and slick passing of the Seattle offensive unit Knighton’s self assured presence between the sticks was a constant source of comfort for the home fans.
At half time the ‘Caps retained they’re slender lead it was an intense half of football which set the stage for the second period. With the team talks over and the players rehydrated the second half gets underway much in the same vein as the first but with the Sounders taking the reins. The ‘Caps seemed content with sitting back and soaking up the pressure which at times looked like a bad decision but as the clock ticked and time ran out Seattle began to take more risks looking for the equalizer.
They huffed and puffed but could not blow the ‘Caps down. After a continuous phase of sounders pressure Knighton decided route one was the best way to give his back line a breather which paid off handsomely when his big kick was flicked on to fresh on the pitch Darren Mattocks who replaced Camilo he was never going lose the foot race and flicked the ball past the despairing Michael Gspurning in a cool as you like fashion.
BC Place erupted and fans knew they were on the brink of something special. The ‘Caps played out the remaining 10 minutes in a professional fashion slowing everything right down and taking the sting out of any Sounders potential revival. When the whistle finally blew the ‘Caps finally broke the duck beating Seattle and joining them at the top of the Cascadia Cup with 4 points.
Team after team have pulled up here and left disappointed, Fortress BC Place still stands firm and the ‘Caps pass the Galaxy in the Western Conference Standings and now only sit 5 points behind top of the table Real Salt Lake with a game in hand. The fans dare to dream and after such a well rounded display from a unified team I wouldn’t rule them out to keep climbing this table.
The spirit of the fans and the support given at grassroots level has developed some very talented footballers in North America and it’s no surprise why some pro’s out there tonight like Obafemi Martins, Nigel Reo Coker, Kenny Miller and YP Lee are attracted to this league. The future is bright for football in North America and I’m excited to see more of this young talent coming through.
Man of the Match: Brad Knighton.
One to watch: Corey Hertzog .