In front of a decent, yet relaxed and rarely vocal crowd, the Sounders played the Vancouver Whitecaps to a 1-1 draw today in Casa Grande, Arizona. The first period saw Starting XI's from both sides and ended 1-0 in favor of the Caps. The Sounders responded with a goal of their own early in a second period which saw both teams make wholesale changes and play backups and rookies. A shortened 30 min third period saw mainly trialists, backup's backups, and guys I'm ashamed to say I couldn't even identify on either team. It was mostly uneventful. Okay...it was entirely uneventful. Steve Zakuani, Patrick Ianni, and Christian Sivebaek did not feature in the game.
The Sounders dominated a Whitecaps team that looks to be a lot more competitive this year with their offseason acquisitions. Camilo scored in the first minute of the match on a play that from the cheap seats, a small 4 row bleacher placed at midfield, looked like a massive mistake by the Sounders' defense. I would later come to find that what most of us on the bleachers couldn't really see was that both Camilo and Hassli were clearly offside. Not a peep came from the spectators in forms of protest, and I don't recall much reaction from the Sounders' players on the missed call either. The rest of the first was marked by stellar possession and movement by the Sounders, with standout performances coming from newcomer Adam Johansson and Mauro Rosales on the right side. The Whitecaps defense played physical and generally mistake free however, and didn't allow for too many looks on goal. And when I say physical, I mean often times down right dirty. DeMerit was vocal throughout and even had a close call with a studs up challenge on Rosales. Mike Fucito was forced into being substituted for everyone's favorite pirate, Roger Levesque at about the half hour mark because of some rough tackles. But overall, despite being down, the impression I got from the first half is that every Sounder was comfortable in maintaining possession, and the new style that is trying to be implemented appears to be heading in a very good direction.
Oh and the 2nd period proved we have great depth. But you already know that. More notes and player specific observations after the jump!
The 2nd Half just showed the gap between the Sounders backups and the backups of the Whitecaps. They dominated from first whistle to last. Servando Carrasco hammered home a nice pass, off of a nice run from David Estrada in the 48th. Lamar Neagle and Estrada showed quite well in this period, moving the ball in and around the Whitecaps backline with relative ease. The Sounders back line, which consisted of Marc Burch, Zack Scott : Man Marker, Andrew Duran, and Wes Feighner, played well and only looked vulnerable to a few smart plays by Omar Salgado. Whitecaps first round pick Darren Mattocks never really got into the game.
After the 2nd, the majority of spectators left, leaving only the diehards to watch guys we did not recognize. Jason Banton took a straight red card late in the 30 minute period on what was a clumsy tackle, but mostly because he lost his footing, and not because it had any real malicious intent. In this period the Whitecaps had 2 great chances in front of goal, that their 3rd stringers absolutely sailed into the imaginary row Z behind goal. On the other end Levesque had an open goal on a tough ball that he just couldn't corral into the far post. He was visibly and audibly upset (albeit kinda playfully) about the miss, with his reaction garnering a few chuckles from the still remaining faithful. The game ended with very little fanfare. And despite getting another shot, Whitecaps first round pick Darren Mattocks never really got into the game.
First Period (45')
Camilo- Unassisted (1')
Second Period (45')
Carrasco- Estrada (48')
Now for a few individual observations.
Adam Johansson- He was really something to watch. He closed down Camilo every time the ball ended up in his area. The biggest thing I took from the game was how well Adam and Rosales play together. They have incredible awareness for one another, and seem to have a shared vision and idea of how to work the right side. They're passing to one another was nearly immaculate. Additionally, Rosales was absolutely free to roam into the center or up top frequently, with Johansson covering and getting into the attack a lot. And I mean a lot. Johansson ended up with the ball by the flag somewhere close to ten times. His crosses however, were quite wild.
Michael Gspurning- Gspurning didn't have much to do. He didn't have much of a chance on the goal. He was quite vocal throughout the 45' though, with his thick Austrian accented voice drowning out most of the other on field chatter. It was a very encouraging vocality (is that a word?), though. His best and worst moment came when he casually gave Eric Hassli the ball with an open net from about 25-30 yds out, a shot Hassli is more than capable of burying. Gspurning quickly got back, and got a fingertip on Hassli's low shot in to the near post, which would have snuck in. The possession from the back looked very stable and calm otherwise from Michael.
Mauro Rosales and Osvaldo Alonso- They did exactly what you would expect them to do. Despite being a preseason game, both played with a lot of passion and tenacity. Alonso bossed the midfield, successfully removing Seba from the game. In other news, Rosales was the engine for the offense. Shocker, I know. As expected, his touch on the ball was deadly, he was the catalyst for many chances and really spread the defense out. He constantly had 2 or 3 Caps trying to close him down. Both players seemed to benefit from the possession style, with Rosales gaining freedom from the play and positioning of Johansson. The Sounders' right side this year, looks nasty.
Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez- All played well. The fact that I don't recall many plays of theirs is testament to how solid they were on the back line. The first half really only saw a few chances by the Caps, one being a blatant offside, and the other being a bad pass by Gspurning. Hurtado had a great look on goal from a header off of a corner, but sailed it over the bar.
The Rest of the Guys- Fredy Montero had some nice plays on the ball, but no real chances on goal. Neagle, Carrasco, and Estrada had great shifts, creating chances and playing well off of each other. Ochoa was largely invisible during his shift. Cordell Cato and Babayele Sodade played well in their 30 minutes. The speed Sodade displayed was quite a surprise considering he looks like a basketball player. In one instance, he beat out a Whitecaps defender to the ball in the corner despite having to make up some ground on the run.
Whitecaps Notes- Eric Hassli and Sebastian Le Toux were rendered non-factors by the Sounders good play on the ball and solid defense. Had Jay DeMerit not been firing up his team and just playing the captain's role well, the defense would've collapsed under the Sounders pressure. Darren Mattocks probably dropped more f-bombs then everyone else combined. The Whitecaps backups were incredibly unorganized and incapable of keeping up with the Sounders.
As the Arizona sun set, and the game ended, the players returned to the lodge following brief autograph signings. One of the last players remaining out was Brad Evans, having trailed behind a bit to say goodbye to his family before the team heads back to Seattle tomorrow. Brad commented on how it was strange that last year they played four games in Arizona, but only one this year. It's a shame, too. You won't get the honor and privilege to sit sideline and watch the Sounders very often...not to mention it was completely free.