By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
Click here to read Ryan McKee's live match blog from Sunday's friendly
Vancouver Whitecaps FC suffered a 4-0 setback away to Major League Soccer expansion club Seattle Sounders FC during Sunday's closed-door friendly match on Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field.
A pair of first-half goals by Nate Jaqua set Sigi Schmid's side on their way to a first-ever win at their home stadium. Fredy Montero sealed victory for the Sounders with two fine strikes midway through the second half, as the Washington State outfit proved too strong on the day for the defending USL First Division champions.
Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson started with his usual 4-4-2 formation in the empty confines of Qwest Field, with latest signing Marco Reda partnering Wesley Charles in the centre of the backline, while Charles Gbeke and Marcus Haber started up front. Seattle, meanwhile, included experienced goalkeeper and team captain Kasey Keller in their starting XI, while three former USL-1 players in Osvaldo Alonso, Taylor Graham, and Sebastien Le Toux also made Schmid's starting line-up. Former Toronto FC defender Tyrone Marshall also started against their Canadian visitors.
Playing in their home colours of green and blue, it was the Sounders that created more of the goalscoring opportunities throughout the 90-minute contest, though Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly was not initially tested when Sanna Nyassi and Alonso struck wide of the target with early efforts.
The Vancouver number one was called upon moments later to make a brave stop at the feet of fleet-footed Nyassi, who proved to be more than a handful for the Whitecaps defenders down the right-hand side.
The visitors struggled to create as many attacking forays as Seattle in the first half, though Gbeke was presented with the first major opportunity of the opening 45 minutes. Yet, with a clear sight of goal, the Canadian international's low strike was well saved by the outstretched foot of Keller. Moments later, Ansu Toure struck a wayward shot high and wide of the Seattle goal.
The Sounders quickly responded with two chances of their own from the skilful Montero. The Colombian first rolled a weak shot into the arms of Nolly at close range before the South American connected poorly with a far-post header from Nyassi's dangerous cross from the right.
The Whitecaps then earned another chance around the half-hour mark, but Toure struck his indirect free kick effort high and wide after the winger was initially fouled near the edge of the Sounders box by defender James Riley.
With the match nearing halftime, Seattle scored their first goal through a fine finish from Jaqua. The former Houston Dynamo striker did well to chest control Montero's forward ball on the edge of the Whitecaps box before the slotting a low shot past Nolly for 1-0 on 37 minutes.
Two minutes later, the home side doubled their lead with a second goal from Jaqua. The Seattle forward finished after Nolly had initially stopped Le Toux's close-range header from another Nyassi cross.
With a two-goal lead, the Sounders finished the half strongly, with Montero curling a shot wide of the target before Nolly did well to save at the feet of Jaqua after Le Toux had played in a fine low cross from the left.
Thordarson made three changes at the beginning of the second half, with Lyle Martin replacing Wes Knight at right fullback, youngster Ethan Gage taking the place of Kenold Versailles in central midfield, and Tyrell Burgess coming in for Vicente Arze on the right side of midfield.
Soon after the restart, Vancouver had to make another change at centre back, as Charles picked up an injury and was replaced Justin Thompson, while Takashi Hirano came in at left fullback for Mason Trafford.
The Whitecaps had a chance to get back into the match on 55 minutes after Gbeke was fouled near the edge of the Sounders box by Seattle midfielder Brad Evans. Again, it was Toure that took the free kick with his left foot, but the Liberian's effort curled over Keller's crossbar.
On the hour mark, Jaqua came close to scoring a hat-trick when he hammered Nyassi's cross right into the chest of Nolly before the visitors were able to clear the danger. Five minutes later, Nolly used his chest again to stop Montero's fierce free-kick strike at goal.
The Sounders, however, would get a third goal at the midway point of the second half. Hirano misjudged the flight of Nathan Sturgis' forward ball for substitute Roger Levesque on the right-hand side. It allowed the former USL-1 Sounders player to break into the Whitecaps box unmarked before finding Montero. With time and space, the Colombian struck a fine shot past Nolly to make it 3-0 on 66 minutes.
A minute later, Montero struck Seattle's fourth and final goal, as the South American beat Nolly from a tight angle to give the home side a commanding lead after Alonso saw his initial strike deflect into the path of his Sounders teammate in the Vancouver box.
With the match entering its latter stages, the Sounders made several substitutions to freshen up their side, while the 'Caps introduced Residency youngsters Philippe Davies and Randy Edwini-Bonsu for Toure and Martin Nash in midfield.
Though well behind in the friendly contest, the Whitecaps kept pushing in search of consolation goal in the dying stages, but it was Nolly who was called on again to make a fine save from Sounders substitute Densill Theobald before Levesque struck the post after breaking in unmarked from the left-hand side with five minutes remaining.
The final whistle confirmed a comfortable win for the MLS hosts, with Thordarson admitting Seattle were the far better side on Sunday afternoon. "That was certainly a lesson for our side today," he told whitecapsfc.com. "I thought we did quite well in the first half-hour, but we started to have problems in the last quarter of the first half. We made some changes at halftime in order to produce something in the second half, but we were unable to manage that. There's not much more to say other than they were better than us."
Reda felt the Sounders's level of fitness was a telling factor in Sunday's outcome. "They've got a good team," the defender said after the match. "You could see that they have been training for awhile, which makes a difference. We've got a ways to go, but today was a very good test for us. It just shows that we have a lot of work to do, especially with our fitness. You could see that Seattle were closing us down quicker and gave us very little time on the ball. Even though it was a tough loss, it was only our second game together as a team, and it was important to play tough opposition like the Sounders. We need games under our belt to get fitter, so once we do that, we should be fine for the season."
The Whitecaps will train back home in Vancouver this week, while Seattle will embark on a preseason trip to Argentina before returning home for the start of their inaugural MLS season on March 19.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC - line-up @ Seattle Sounders FC (Closed-door friendly)
1.Jay Nolly; 2.Marco Reda, 6.Wesley Charles (4.Justin Thompson 49'), 8.Wes Knight (24.Lyle Martin 45'), 18.Mason Trafford (22.Takashi Hirano); 7.Martin Nash (19.Randy Edwini-Bonsu), 16.Ansu Toure (15.Philippe Davies), 23.Vicente Arze (Tyrell Burgess 45'), 25.Kenold Versailles (20.Ethan Gage 45'); 98.Charles Gbeke, 14.Marcus Haber