Seattle Sounders FC got the one result it couldn’t afford Friday night, suffering a 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps at CenturyLink Field.
The result keeps the Cascadia Cup in Vancouver and leaves the Sounders even with the Los Angeles Galaxy in the race for the Supporters’ Shield and top seeding in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference.
“Disappointed in the result,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I don’t know if it was necessarily a game that we deserved to win, but I know it was a game we didn’t deserve to lose.”
Part of that reasoning was because of a complaint the Sounders had about an officiating decision that led directly to the game’s only goal.
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That came in the 45th minute, when Vancouver forward Kekuta Manneh raced into acres of open space down the left side. He was deep into the penalty area before Seattle defenders closed in. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei managed to get a piece of Manneh’s shot, but it continued into the back of the net.
However, the Sounders were frustrated that Manneh had been allowed back onto the field after an injury at a time when right back Brad Evans had pushed forward, leaving free that long run to the goal.
“I’m expecting for the referee not to give them an advantage,” Evans said. “When we’re pushing forward there’s always the risk of a counter, so the referee has to wait until the play is done or they are off on a counterattack without him getting that unfair advantage from stepping off the field and then coming on (at) basically just a perfect onside position there.”
The Sounders (19-10-3) couldn’t find the equalizer — or even many dangerous chances — over the final 45 minutes. They ended the night with 10 shots, three of them on target, and were shut out for the first time since Aug. 2.
“In fairness to (the Whitecaps), they were very well organized,” Schmid said. “They really packed the middle of the field. We needed to create more in the width — didn’t quite get that done.”
Vancouver (11-8-3) took the season series against Seattle, 2-0-1. That allowed the Whitecaps to become the first team to retain the Cascadia Cup, going 3-2-1 to finish ahead of Seattle (2-2-2) and Portland (2-3-1).
The result also moved Vancouver back ahead of Portland for the fifth and final playoff position in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, the Sounders will watch Sunday when Los Angeles tries to cash in on its game in hand at FC Dallas. After that, Seattle and L.A. will settle things in two head-to-head clashes. The clubs will conclude their regular season with home and road games against each other. That series showdown begins Oct. 19 at L.A. and resolves Oct. 25 at CenturyLink Field, which will be opened to its full capacity.
“We have a lot to play for,” Schmid said. “Our goals of Supporters’ Shield haven’t changed, and our goal of winning the MLS Cup hasn’t changed. We might need a little bit of help from Dallas maybe, but we need to take care of business in our last two games.”
The full stadium was open Friday, and a crowd of 55,765 was announced.
Before the match, the Sounders continued their 40th anniversary celebration with an alumni game and pregame introductions of some of those who have played for the club since its 1974 creation in the North American Soccer League.
“You have a big night like this in front of 55,000-plus, all the alumni that came in, and tonight was a big deal,” Evans said. “We left it all on the field, but at the end of the day we just couldn’t get a shot on goal.”