BY MATT GASCHK
VANCOUVER, BC – The Sounders FC and Vancouver Whitecaps are two teams driving toward the MLS Cup playoffs and it showed in Saturday’s match at BC Place as Seattle clinched its fourth straight playoff berth.
After a first half that was largely devoid of scoring chances, the second half saw two teams putting equal efforts into scoring and defending as both Seattle and Vancouver saw late opportunities just miss and the match ended in a 0-0 draw.
It was Seattle’s first shutout since an August 18 shutout of the Whitecaps at CenturyLink Field and their tenth clean sheet of the year, securing another postseason appearance for the Rave Green.
“We’ve done a lot of work all season, so it’s great to finally have that officially secured,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Our goal is still to get second place, so we’re disappointed not getting three points today.”
The first half saw little in terms of scoring chances, but the Whitecaps were hit hard by injuries. Midfielder John Thorrington was forced to leave in the 17th minute with an injury and forward Darren Mattocks followed in the 42nd minute.
Seattle’s best first-half opportunity came in the 15th minute when they got out on the counter-attack with Mauro Rosales, Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero and Brad Evans getting out on the run. Rosales took a pass up the left side and crossed it for Evans, but it went just out of his reach and skipped away for a goal kick.
The second half, meanwhile, was a different story as the game opened up.
Sounders FC goalkeeper Michael Gspurning didn’t have to make his first save until the 47th minute on a shot from Camilo Sanvezzo and one minute later, he got his glove to a swerving left-footed shot from Alain Rochat to make his second save.
In the 64th minute, the Whitecaps again put pressure in the box, but Seattle kept them out of the net with a rugged defensive effort, knocking down balls into the box and getting deflections on shots when Vancouver was able to get them away.
The Sounders then turned the tides and had an opportunity to seize the lead in the 79th minute. Christian Tiffert knocked a corner kick into the box and it went just past Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and to the foot of Jeff Parke, but he couldn’t get enough on his shot and YP Lee cleared it off the line at the post.
“I knew it was going to get blocked,” Parke said. “The guy was there at the post and I didn’t get enough on it. He was in a good spot and I could only get a little piece of it.”
Then Steve Zakuani got in the scoring chances, first finding Johnson with a ball in the 83rd minute, then shooting from the top of the box himself in the 89th minute. Johnson’s header skipped wide and Zakuani’s shot from the top of the box was deflected, then saved by Whitecaps keeper Brad Knighton.
Then both teams had chances in stoppage time.
Tiffert found Montero in the box with his back to goal. Montero collected the ball, turned and fired, but it drifted just wide of the corner of the net.
On the other end, Barry Robson crossed it in from the left side. It grazed the head of Kenny Miller and went through to the far post for Sanvezzo in front of an open net, but he put the shot past Gspurning, but just wide of the far post and the match finished in a scoreless draw.
“You can’t say that both teams didn’t want to win this game,” Gspurning said. “I just tried to be as big as possible. Of course, it was a lot of luck too, that he missed the chance.”
The Sounders will host the Portland Timbers FC on Sunday, October 7, at CenturyLink Field.
Sounders FC – None.
Whitecaps FC – None.
Sounders FC – Jeff Parke (caution) 55.
Whitecaps FC – Jordan Harvey (caution) 49.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales (Steve Zakuani 70), Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Tiffert, Brad Evans (Andy Rose 74), Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson.
Whitecaps FC – Brad Knighton, YP Lee, Andy O’Brien, Jay DeMerit, Jordan Harvey, Gershon Koffie, Alain Rochat, John Thorrington (Matt Watson 17), Barry Robson, Kenny Miller, Darren Mattocks (Camilo Sanvezzo 42).