Missing five regulars, the Sounders couldn’t mount a consistent attack and fell to the Whitecaps 1-0 Saturday night before a B.C. Place sellout of 22,500 in Vancouver, a weak start to three games in nine days against Cascadia Cup foes.
The Sounders’ four-game winning streak began to end in the 12th minute when Sebastian Fernandez took a pass from Pedro Morales and found himself unchecked above the top of the box from 25 yards. His booming knuckleball blew past goalie Stefan Frei inside the near post. The score was Vancouver’s first after two shutouts in a row.
The lead held in part because Seattle, which leads MLS with 33 goals, deployed a makeshift lineup thanks to the absences of Ozzie Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda (suspended for yellow card accumulations), Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin (yet to return from World Cup play) and the late hold-back of Obafemi Martins because of a hamstring injury that was not deemed serious. Also held back was backup goalie Marcus Hahnemann, with the same injury.
The loss was the first for the Sounders since Dempsey and Yedlin left to train with the U.S. Men’s National Team prior to World Cup play. Brad Evans Evans and Michael Azira started in midfield, and Kenny Cooper and Chad Barrett started up front.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said to a TV audience at halftime that the Sounders “were getting nothing” from Cooper and Lamar Neagle, who were subbed out in the 74th and 55th minutes, respectively.
That gave playing time to reserves Cam Weaver and rookie Aaron Kovar, and Seattle newcomer Tristan Bowen made his club debut. But the Sounders were overwhelmed with Vancouver’s quickness in the first half, and put together only a handful of modest scoring chances in the second half.
Even as its record fell to 11-4-2, Seattle stayed atop the MLS table. fell However, the Whitecaps (6-3-7) extended their lead in the Cascadia Cup competition, moving to 2-0-1, while Seattle fell to 0-1-2 and Portland remained at 0-1-1.
The Sounders face the Portland Timbers at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup, then meet the Timbers again at 7 p.m. July 13 in MLS play. The Sounders figure to have all five regulars back for the second Timbers match, at the Clink.