Life in Whitecapsland is usually pretty good. Good crowds, good weather, a good team, etc. But for the first time in recent (or not so recent) memory, the team is facing a serious crisis. We're simply not used to the bad publicity and uncertainty that has surrounded the team in recent weeks.
The third straight installment of the Seattle series is the first game under "new" ownership. The USL has agreed to operate the team for the duration of the season, and I for one think that the team will be as stable now than at any time over the last year or two. Not that there aren't any problems......
The most glaring issue at hand right now is the fact that the best players have yet to suit up at the same time. The injury bug has hit hard. And the timing has been awful. Consider: we are hit the hardest right at the time we play a three game series against the top team.........right when the ownership situation becomes a mess.
The pressure to produce a result was tremendous last night, and for a while, it looked like the Whitecaps may just do it.
For a while, anyway.
The first half hour or so was definately to the Whitecaps advantage...they started the game well, and by the time the first half was 30 minutes old had already racked up their 8th corner. Although nothing came of all those set pieces, the game was being played in the Seattle end of the park and that was just fine.
One of the more consistent players for the Whitecaps this year has been Kevan Cameron. He has been a solid addition to our back line and has looked very confident on he ball all year. He was to play a big role in the way the first half would pan out, and the first of those situations would be a test of his confidence. It started with Seattle's first and only chance of the half. It was a corner kick.............
..........Andrew Gregor stepped up to take the inswinging kick that took a slight deflection off of a Seattle player on the way to the box and went right onto the head of Cameron who headed down and away..........right into the net. The ball bounced once and went up into the upper left side. Seattle's first shot at net went in, and it came with 5 minutes left in the half. All the work that the Whitecaps had done up to that point now was wasted. But Cameron wasn't quite finished.
With 3 minutes left in the half, Seattle keeper Preston Burpo was challenged for a high ball by Cameron. Burpo got the ball cleanly , but it then bobbled out of his hands and both he and Cameron went down. I didn't see what actually happened at that point. I'm not sure anyone did. Cameron said later that Burpo cleated him, and the referee agreed. Penalty. I'm quite sure that Burpo will have another story and I really don't blame the Seattle players for thinking that they were hard done by. Only Burpo, Cameron, and the referee will really have the story. But a penalty was called, and when Oliver Heald stepped up to calmly slot home to Burpo's left, there was life in the troops again.
But for some reason, the team just couldn't get anything going in the second half. The first while was basically midfield work, neither team really generating anything.Then a real surprise.
Johnny Sulentic, over the years, has really endeared himself to the local support. He has proven to be a real sparkplug for this team through his energy, flash, and style. But his reliability has been called into question recently, mainly through his efforts over the last couple of years to catch on with Zagreb in Croatia. His yearly trip to the old country for tryouts is nothing new. But this year he decided to stay a little longer......and not tell anyone about it. So at the start of the year, Sulentic found himself on the suspended list. With him out of the lineup, and injuries to Niall Thompson, Chris Craveiro, Geordie Lyall, David Morris, et al.., it's no wonder the team has had a bit of a slow start...
But guess who entered play in the 61st minute? None other than Johnny Sulentic. And the timing couldn't have been better............because just as the Whitecaps were about to bring him on, Seattle got another corner kick. Only their second one of the game.
And wouldn't you know it............O'Brien's looping ball found the head of Ryan Edwards about 3 yards out........and Edwards didn't miss. Just like that, Seattle goes up 2-1 and in comes Sulentic to maybe get things going. And he would last all of 7 minutes. A late challenge on Zack Kingsley was all that was needed for the referee to produce the red card to Sulentic. Crazy stuff on a crazy night. Now we were down to 10 men and that was that.
Kind of reminded me of last year when Sulentic made his first appearance of the year from injury against the Sounders and we got waxed 5-1. It was the loss that really ended up getting the team back on track......now I'm not saying that the same thing is going to happen here; I just thought I'd draw the parallell.......Sulentic makes his first appearance, and we get waxed by the Sounders.
Garbage time saw two late goals from Darren Sawatzky on breakaways. The first one definately offside, the second one not. But it didn't really matter, because the damage had been done. The final was 4-1 for the Sounders.
Seattle are a good team. They are probably going to win the division handily. But I still think that the Whitecaps are going to be fine. We have yet to play the same lineup twice, and the lack of cohesion right now really hurts. That's not to say that we haven't played nice soccer at times....we have. And overall we outplayed the Sounders the last two games. But with only one forward available (Jordan) and all the injuries, I think that we shouldn't read too much into the early going. These slow starts are a trademark of this team (for different reasons each year it seems), and I think that there's just been too much going on to expect a settled side.
Vancouver (all white w/blue trim) 10 shots
Larkin (2 saves); Coppin (Sulentic 61), Berg, Cameron; Clark, Dailly, Kindel (Veer 81), King, Heald; Valente, Jordan.
Seattle (all black) 8 shots
Burpo; Barton, Jenkins, Edwards, Scott; Daligcon (Brown 81), Kingsley, Gregor, O'Brien; Sawatzky, Smith (Farrell 75, Hernandez 87)
Photos of Burpo/Cameron courtesy Vancouver Province. Top photo and right side photo by Brian Goldie. Corner kick and hands on hips photos by Krammerhead (thanx dude).
Southsiders Discussion Board