Whitecaps FC end Empire Field era with disappointing defeat to arch-rivals Seattle Sounders FC

'Caps fall 3-1 to Seattle in Empire finale

Camilo Osvaldo Alonso

Photo Credit: 
Bob Frid

In their final match on Bell Pitch at Empire Field, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4W-15L-10D) suffered a 3-1 home defeat to Pacific Northwest rivals Seattle Sounders FC (15W-6L-9D) in Major League Soccer on Saturday evening.

Though Camilo gave Whitecaps FC the lead midway through the first half, a Brad Evans penalty levelled matters for Seattle before halftime. Sounders FC secured the derby victory with two goals in the space of four second-half minutes from Colombian striker Fredy Montero to bring the Blue and White's second spell on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds to a disappointing conclusion.

Saturday's result not only ended Whitecaps FC's chances of winning this year's fan-based Cascadia Cup competition with Seattle and Portland Timbers, it also eliminated Vancouver from making the MLS Cup Playoffs in their expansion year. By contrast, victory for playoff-bound Seattle earned the Emerald City outfit their third Cascadia Cup title with the best record between themselves, Whitecaps FC, and the Timbers during the 2011 MLS regular season.

"We’re very disappointed," said Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn. "I said before the game, this is more than just a game. There was so much at stake with the rivalry with Seattle. We wanted to send our fans something special and we just slipped today, especially because of the opportunities there were for us in the game."

Soehn's starting line-up included two notable milestones, with Jordan Harvey making his 100th career appearance in MLS, while goalkeeper Joe Cannon made his 300th career start in the league. The 'Caps also made two changes from the starting XI that played last weekend at LA Galaxy. Michael Boxall replaced the suspended Alain Rochat at centre back, while Mustapha Jarju partnered Eric Hassli in attack, with Shea Salinas starting the game on the Vancouver substitutes' bench.

It was a gorgeous early autumn night in East Vancouver, and the sense of it being a special night at Empire Field was apparent from the passion and enthusiasm shown by both Vancouver and Seattle supporters. For some 'Caps fans, Saturday evening was also an emotional time, as they watched their last MLS match at Empire Field following an eventful spell of just over six months at the temporary stadium.

In keeping with the electric atmosphere, both sides were full of energy for this long-awaited derby contest, with chances traded at both ends in the early stages. Camilo and Jarju had opportunities for the home side, while Evans and Montero had efforts for the visitors. On 18 minutes, Boxall was given a glorious chance to score his first MLS goal when he got on the end of Pete Vagenas' flick of a Davide Chiumiento cross from the right. However, Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller made an equally fine save to deny the New Zealand international.

It was a sign of things to come, and on 22 minutes, Whitecaps FC delighted their supporters with a ninth goal of the season from Camilo. Vagenas played a pass into Hassli, who cleverly redirected it into the path of Chiumiento on the right flank. The Swiss playmaker got in behind the Seattle backline before squaring an inviting ball to the unmarked Brazilian, who finished with ease for a 1-0 Vancouver lead.

Camilo's goal inspired some fine play from the 'Caps, and in particular, former Sounders FC midfielder Vagenas. Playing against his former club, Vagenas played some fine forward balls to his teammates. On 25 minutes, the central midfielder's through ball freed Jarju in the Sounders FC box, but once again, Keller was on hand to make an important diving save to the Gambian international's low strike.

Keller's save allowed Seattle to level matters from the penalty spot on 33 minutes after the visitors punished their Canadian hosts with a quick attack that led Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit being adjudged to have handled Alvaro Fernandez's goal-bound strike in the Vancouver box. Evans stepped up to beat Cannon from the spot for his fifth goal of the season and a 1-1 scoreline at halftime.

With this derby match in the balance, both sides picked up where they left off by having both sets of supporters on the edge of their seats with numerous chances at both ends. Jarju had two good chances for the home side, while Hassli was unable to convert from close range. Seattle, meanwhile, created a fine set of chances themselves - the best of which came from Lamar Neagle, who hammered the Vancouver crossbar with a long-range strike.

The game's decisive moment came on 63 minutes, as Montero struck Seattle's winner in fortuitous fashion. The unmarked South American was able to latch on to a wayward Whitecaps FC clearance before making a run into the Vancouver box and finding the top left-hand corner of the goal for 2-1. It was the Colombian's eighth goal of the season. Four minutes later, Montero struck his ninth goal of the season through more good fortune. After taking an Evans pass, the striker's goal-bound shot deflected off the leg of DeMerit and looped into the Vancouver goal to make it 3-1 to the visitors.

It was a dramatic and disappointing turn of events for Whitecaps FC, who tried their best to pull themselves back into the match. Substitute Salinas had two good chances for the home side, while Chiumiento and Hassli went close with late efforts. Seattle, meanwhile, came close to a fourth goal after Neagle and substitute Sammy Ochoa each struck the post in the dying stages.

More than three minutes of time added on were played before the final whistle confirmed a disappointing end to Whitecaps FC's spell at Empire Field, while Sounders FC celebrated lifting the Cascadia Cup with their large contingent of travelling fans. After the match, Whitecaps FC players and staff displayed a banner of thanks to fans for their great support during their brief spell in the temporary stadium.

Whitecaps FC's focus now shifts to their much-anticipated move to Bell Pitch downtown at BC Place on Sunday, October 2, as they host MLS expansion cousins and Pacific Northwest rivals Portland Timbers in their first competitive top-flight match at their refurbished new home in 27 years. Seattle, meanwhile, return to CONCACAF Champions League action versus Comunicaciones in Guatemala on Tuesday before visiting Eastern Conference side New England Revolution in MLS next Saturday.

Scoring Summary:
22' - VAN - Camilo (Davide Chiumiento, Eric Hassli)
33' - SEA - Brad Evans (penalty)
63' - SEA - Fredy Montero
67' - SEA - Fredy Montero (Brad Evans, Leo Gonzalez)

Match Stats:
Shots: Vancouver 15 - Seattle 18
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 8 - Seattle 9
Saves: Vancouver 6 - Seattle 6
Fouls: Vancouver 15 - Seattle 8
Offsides: Vancouver 1 - Seattle 1
Corners: Vancouver 7 - Seattle 5

Cautions:
31' - SEA - Brad Evans
32' - VAN - Jay DeMerit
70' - VAN - Eric Hassli
77' - SEA - Jeff Parke

Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon, 25.Jonathan Leathers (12.Jeb Brovsky 45'), 6.Jay DeMerit, 2.Michael Boxall, 26.Jordan Harvey; 28.Gershon Koffie, 8.Peter Vagenas, 20.Davide Chiumiento, 37.Camilo, 29.Eric Hassli (23.Long Tan 81'), 7.Mustapha Jarju (22.Shea Salinas 58')

Subs not used: 18.Jay Nolly, 14.Greg Janicki, 15.Philippe Davies, 17.Omar Salgado

Seattle Sounders FC
18.Kasey Keller; 34.Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, 31.Jeff Parke, 20.Zach Scott, 12.Leo Gonzalez; 27.Lamar Neagle, 6.Osvaldo Alonso, 3.Brad Evans, 15.Alvaro Fernandez (16.David Estrada 79'); 21.Nate Jaqua (19.Sammy Ochoa 66'), 17.Fredy Montero

Subs not used: 29.Josh Ford, 2.Mike Fucito, 4.Patrick Ianni, 14.Michael Tetteh, 23.Servando Carrasco

Budweiser Man of the Match: Gershon Koffie