BURNABY, BC -- The Sounders FC was fast and aggressive. In the end they may have been too aggressive as nine offside calls negated several scoring opportunities and they had to settle for a scoreless draw in a preseason match against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, BC.
Those opportunities were highlighted by a Steve Zakuani goal in the 15th minute that was waved off when he was ruled offside.
"I thought in the first half, we put together a couple of good combinations. We got caught offside today, and more so in 20 minutes than we have been called offside in the last five games together,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Some of them were really close, you couldn’t really tell.”
Zakuani was called offside in the fifth and eighth minutes, an omen of things to come as the Sounders were called offside six times in the first half alone.
In the 13th minute another near-chance was stopped when Zakuani fired off a shot that caromed to Fredy Montero in front of the goal. He popped a shot that Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly stopped, only to have the whole play nullified by an offside call.
Then came the ill-fated play in the 15th minute. Sanna Nyassi gathered the ball at the right side of the box, dribbling toward the endline. He then reversed his field, cutting back to the top of the box before sending a cross to Zakuani at the far post. He slammed a header past Nolly and started to celebrate, thinking he’d given the Sounders a 1-0 lead. He then looked back at the referee, who was pointing to the six-yard box and the linesman had his flag raised - offside.
Adding to that frustration, Zakuani threaded a ball to Freddie Ljungberg up the left side and Ljungberg got well past the Vancouver defense and into a one-on-one with Nolly, but the linesman’s flag was again raised.
"I thought in the first half we had four or five really good chances. Overall, we’ve put a lot of emphasis on trying to play balls behind the defense and I think we probably tried to over show that hand a little bit by trying to do that too much,” Schmid said. “I think the combination play wasn’t as good as it has been in the past. We’ve got to make sure that we still find the right balance in possession of the ball and get it behind the opposing defense. We just have to become better at our decision making process.”
That trend of missed opportunities continued in the second half, but not all was lost in the scoreless draw.
"It may have not been the best game to watch, but it was a good game for our fitness,” Ljungberg said.
With just two preseason games left until MLS First Kick March 25 against the Philadelphia Union, the Sounders FC starting 11 all played 63 minutes or more, with Kasey Keller and Tyrone Marshall going the full 90 minutes. Playing on the road, that gave Schmid an opportunity to see how well some of the combinations on the team are working - and what still needs to be accomplished in the next 19 days.
"This was a good game for us, from the standpoint of the atmosphere we played in,” Schmid said. “Anytime you play in front of a crowd, a gated game, and you have some atmosphere in the game, it is good. From a fitness standpoint, it was good that some of the guys pushed 60 minutes and some other guys pushed to the 70 and 80-minute mark, which we haven't done this year. From that standpoint, it was good.”
Keller finished with two saves for his third clean sheet of the preseason, one of which he split with Chris Eylander.
The Sounders will face the Portland Timbers Thursday night at 6 pm at Qwest Field. Their final preseason test will come March 19 on the road against the Colorado Rapids.