SEATTLE – Already with four goals to his name in 2019 coming into the Seattle Sounders’ home matchup with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, Kelvin Leerdam picked quite the occasion for his fifth.
Seattle’s Dutch right back broke the scoreless deadlock with a 96th-minute strike past Whitecaps goalkeeper Zac MacMath, continuing his high-scoring season in dramatic fashion. After scoring once in his first 31 MLS games, Leerdam has now netted five times in his first 16 contests to start 2019, putting him at second on the team – just one behind striker Raúl Ruidíaz.
“The ball was on the left side. Brad [Smith] had a combination, I believe with Harry [Shipp],” Leerdam said of Saturday’s tally after the match. “I don’t know if he tried to shoot or pass but the ball came to me and I just turned to the goal and shot. Simple.”
For Leerdam and the Sounders, the shot hitting the back of the net provided a sweet release in what had, to that point, been a frustrating game. Unable to generate many chances in the first half, Seattle’s attack picked up in the second, and the Sounders looked to have finally opened the scoring with a long-distance strike from 16-year-old midfielder Danny Leyva on the hour mark.
But referee Alan Kelly waved off the goal upon Video review after he ruled that Sounders forward Justin Dhillon had fouled MacMath on the shot prior to Leyva’s finish.
“It was not an easy game,” Leerdam said. “There was space, but the ball didn’t move around quick enough on our team and we didn’t create too many chances. But Vancouver, they didn’t try to attack really, they were sitting back and waiting for our mistakes and trying to hit us on the counter. But these kinds of games we need to move the ball quicker, I think that was the main problem.”
The Sounders would have to wait all the way until the game’s waning moments to get the winner, which Leerdam slotted past MacMath off the set-up from Smith. It was Smith’s fifth assist of the season, meaning Seattle’s fullbacks have now factored in 11 of the club’s 27 goals.
The match snapped a three-game losing streak as the Sounders navigate a road-heavy part of the schedule without many key contributors out on international duty at the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the 2019 Copa América.
Leerdam celebrates his game-winning goal | USA Today
Ahead of Seattle’s upcoming two-game road set with Columbus Crew SC and New York City FC, Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said he hopes Saturday’s dramatic finish can act as a necessary psychological boost with the second half of the season underway.
“It was vital that we get back at home,” said Schmetzer. “Certainly, the mental boost and the confidence that group has now going out on the road for another couple of tough games is going to help us.
“The fans go home happy. The coaching staff, the players – we’re all going to go home happy today. That’s pro sports. Buzzer beaters in basketball, last minute Hail Mary’s in football – it’s all the same. That’s why sports is a great and entertaining event.”