VANCOUVER—The Vancouver Whitecaps and the Seattle Sounders fought to a 1-1 draw in front of 19,683 fans at BC Place on Wednesday evening in what was the home side’s first ever CONCACAF Champions League match.
Whitecaps centre back Tim Parker opened the scoring just past the hour mark, getting on the end of a Pedro Morales corner by flicking the ball into the bottom right corner of Troy Perkins’ goal with his foot.
Seattle found an equalizer in the 72nd minute, as Lamar Neagle fired a ball into the top right corner of the net. Andy Rose claimed an assist on the play, by crossing a low ball through Whitecaps defender Christian Dean’s legs on the right side.
“The guy that scored was free,” Whitecaps goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi said of what went wrong on the play. “There was no pressure on him, so he could score without any pressure. The back line and the midfield—someone has to [mark] the guy, you know? It’s quite simple.”
The fact Neagle was unmarked was also a point of frustration for Vancouver coach Carl Robinson.
“We switched off at a vital moment,” Robinson admitted. “It was a second phase on a cross. We didn’t stop the cross at the source, and then didn’t defend the cross well enough.”
It was a slow opening to proceedings, with play from both teams largely disjointed—perhaps not a surprise given both sides played with largely overhauled starting lineups featuring many young players and those on the fringes of the squad.
“It was an okay game,” Robinson offered. “It’s important that we didn’t lose. We didn’t play great. Obviously sometimes that happens when you make that many changes. I’ll accept that. But we got our noses in front. Unfortunately we shut off at the vital moment and we let them back in with a bad goal. But I think it was a fair result.”
Despite the slow start and the lack of “champagne football,” Robinson stuck by his decision to overhaul his lineup in the way he did.
Extensive squad rotation is expected this month, with the club playing eight matches in all competitions.
“I take each game at a time, and I pick the best team that I think can win the game,” Robinson said. “I really genuinely believed that this group of young players that I put out today—because it was a very young team, scattered with Paolo [Tornaghi] and Pedro [Morales]—had enough. I think [Seattle Sounders coach ] Sigi [Schmid] did the same.
“Sigi made eight or nine changes as well. You have to do that as a manager. When you win, everyone pats you on the back. When you don’t win, or you don’t entertain, people are quick to criticize. It’s part of the game.”
It took about 35 minutes to see a real chance, and that came as Rose headed narrowly over the bar from close range, getting on the end of a ball sent in by Aaron Kovar from the left.
On the hour mark, Morales set up Erik Hurtado with a ball over the top, but a defender impeded the opportunity, giving Vancouver a corner.
It would prove costly for Seattle, as Parker flicked the ball past Perkins.
In the 66th minute, the Sounders came close to finding an equalizer. Chad Barrett got in behind the Whitecaps defence from a ball played over the top, but goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi came out to challenge and collided with the forward. Rose followed up with the rebound but missed wide to the right of goal with defenders and Tornaghi scrambling.
The Whitecaps had a late chance for a winner in the 86th minute as Sam Adekugbe crossed a ball into the area for Darren Mattocks, but the Jamaican’s header went well wide of target.
“[We had] some half chances,” Mattocks said when asked if he’d like some of the misses from this match back. “Probably on another day the team would have taken those chances, but as I said, I think 1-1 is a fair result.”
Robert Earnshaw generated a half chance two minutes later, finding himself one on one with defender Brad Evans from close range. However, he couldn’t quite wrap his foot around the ball and his effort was skied high and wide.
Moments later, Deybi Flores blasted a free kick from a good position at the back of Mattocks head, before Seattle defenders eventually cleared the danger.
Vancouver returns to Major League Soccer action this Saturday when it hosts Real Salt Lake. The Whitecaps’ next Champions League match is on September 16 against CD Olimpia of Honduras at BC Place.