Tacoma, WA – Wednesday night in Tacoma, the Sounders U-23 and Whitecaps U-23 took part in a historic South Sound event. For the first time in over 35 years, Cheney Stadium was the host for a soccer match. In addition to all the festivities, fans were treated to six goals for the 3-3 draw.
The match was what you might expect from a rivalry game. The Whitecaps started strong and finished strong. However, the Sounders dominated the middle portion of the 90 minutes. With all things considered, the 3-3 tie was probably a fair result.
Sounders forward, Sean Okoli scored the Sounders 3rd goal of the night.
“That’s a rivalry game for you. It’s up and down all the time,” Okoli said after the match. “Vancouver is a very good team. We had a game plan, it was shaky at first but after a while we got into our groove and started playing, and luckily went two goals up. But once a again, there’s always somehow that someone can come back.”
Vancouver is first to capitalize on an opportunity. In the 15th minute, the Canadians worked a quick counter attack down the left side and crossed the ball in front of traffic. With forward Caleb Clarke running to the near post, the Sounders U-23 defenders followed him and Gagandeep Dosanjh was able to beat the rest to tuck it away at the back post.
The Whitecaps could have extended their lead just three minutes later as they again had a look from inside the box, but Doug Herrick was there to make the save.
As the half played on, both teams generated chances. Vancouver controlled more possession, but in the 34th minute, a good pass from Aodhan Quinn found Fernando Monge on the right sideline. One touch to control, and then Monge drilled a cross in front of the goal mouth. Sean Okoli stretched with his head but couldn’t reach the ball and it flew past the goal.
In the 38th minute, the Sounders nullified a half of play, mostly controlled by Vancouver. Luis Esteves snuck in from his wide left position toward the top of the penalty area. A couple quick passes between the midfielder and the Sounders attackers left the New Zealander with a chance to shoot. Esteves drove a low shot from the edge of the box to the goalkeeper’s right to tie the match 1-1.
Less than a minute after the Sounders U-23 chance, the Whitecaps countered Dosanjh got behind the Sounders defense. The diminutive midfielder snuck past Herrick in goal too, but couldn’t pull the ball back enough on his shot. The ball bounced off the outside of the post for a goal kick.
HALFTIME - 1-1
The Sounders U-23 started the 2nd half considerably strong than they played in the 1st and they were immediately rewarded. In the 47th minute, Akron product, Aodhan Quinn found enough space outside the top of the penalty box to try a shot. Quinn struck the ball squarely and his effort knuckled and evaded Callom Irving in the Vancouver goal to pull the Sounders ahead.
Sounders Head Coach, Darren Sawatzky said after the match, “They took it to us in the first half, after a late start. They were late getting here, so it was a little weird for our guys. In the 2nd half we made some adjustments and were firing, and it looked like we were going to dump a couple more in.”
The Sounders weren’t satisfied with their newly acquired one goal lead. In the center circle, Fernando Monge pick pocketed the Whitecaps in the 52nd minute. Monge quickly sighted Sean Okoli up ahead without anyone marking him. Okoli, onside, kept his calm and slotted the ball past Irving to expand the Sounders lead to 3-1.
Sean Okoli said, “Growing up, I was always taught to stay in between the center backs. The ball just slipped into me and I just stayed calm and collected to just finish it.”
The fans attending the Sounders U-23 vs. Whitecaps U-23 at historic Cheney Stadium were treated to plenty of action on the night. In the 71st minute, Vancouver pulled a goal back for an exciting finish. After a scuffle in the box, Caleb Clarke found his scoring touch and the back netting to make the score 3-2.
On a night when the Sounders scored three goals, you wouldn’t expect that the man of the match would be a goalkeeper, but Doug Herrick certainly deserves recognition. The St. Mary’s alum made multiple saves that seemed to be snatched out of the net. In the 82nd minute, Herrick sprawled out to his right to smother the Whitecaps effort and preserve the lead.
Despite Herrick’s great play in the Sounders goal, the Whitecaps equalized in the 86th minute off a Ben Fisk header. The header didn’t beat Herrick with pace or power, but the placement off his glancing header was too far away for the diving goalkeeper.
The Sounders pushed on for the game winner, and looked like they might have earned a hand ball in the box, but nothing came. To be fair, the final score of 3-3 seemed to be a pretty fair result based on both team’s efforts.
Darren Sawatzky said, “We’re still waiting for our guys to stomp on the gas pedal and they haven’t quite done it yet.”
After winning 2-1 in Vancouver and drawing in Tacoma, Sawatzky said, “When you look at the overall season, the Vancouver Whitecaps are going to be contending at the end of the season. If you asked me before the season, to get a win up there and a tie here, I’d say that’s great, but I do think we gave a couple points away tonight.”
The Sounders U-23 next match is Saturday against another Cascadian rival. The Sounders U-23 kickoff at 6pm from Tumwater High School Stadium against the Portland Timbers U-23. Tickets are available on SoundersU23.com
Sounders U-23 - GK- Doug Herrick, 3- Mark Lee, 15- Anthony Arena, 20- DeAndre Yedlin, 6- Chris Brundage, 10- Fernando Monge, 13- Nick McCluskey, 14- Luis Esteves, 17- Sean Morris, 23- Sean Okoli, 8- Aodhan Quinn
Vancouver Whitecaps U-23 - GK- Callum Irving, 14- Daniel Stanese, 9-Adam Palakiewicz, 5- Bobby Jhutty, 2- James Farenhorst, 8- Ben McKendry, 16- Gagandeep Dosanjh, 7- Yassin Essa, 22- Bryce Alderson, 10- Ben Fisk, 23- Caleb Clarke