Seattle Sounders suffer brutal title blow

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Seattle Sounders FC suffered their fourth defeat of the season against rivals Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place.

The three-time US Open Cup winners have yet to register a win against fellow Pacific Northwest sides Portland Timbers or the Caps this season – the latter scoring here through Sebastian Fernandez.

Still without World Cup duo Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin, plus their other two Designated Players in Osvaldo Alonso and Obafemi Martins, Seattle’s hopes lay on the shoulders of their fringe men but they didn’t perform as hoped.

Vancouver winger Kekuta Manneh scored a hat-trick in the reverse fixture last year, and both he and Erik Hurtado almost got in behind the Sounders’ defence in the opening moments.

It took just 12 minutes for these promising plays to be converted into a goal. The ball was played to Fernandez 25 yards out, and he pinged a swerving effort into the roof of the net; an undoubtedly fine strike, but Stefan Frei left himself with little chance by shifting his balance at the last second.

With the defensive players selected by Sigi Schmid lacking the athleticism of Alonso and Yedlin, they were struggling to contain the pace and enthusiasm of their hosts, evidenced by Manneh finding space for a low shot. At the other end, Kenny Cooper and Chad Barrett suited a more direct approach, and the former nodded over.

Manneh really should have added another to his Cascadia Cup tally, but for a second time Frei was able to deny the Gambian. Meanwhile, Gershon Koffie and Pedro Morales were providing real class in the midfield, and both were heavily involved as Hurtado sliced over from inside the area.

Captain Morales unleashed a pile-driver on target in the first half’s dying seconds, but Frei was able to bat the ball away before the whistle.

The Rave Green had a chance in the 52nd minute as Lamar Neagle cut in from the left, fizzing an attempt inches wide. They were having some success on the flanks – coming close from Tristan Bowen’s deflected centre – but the game should have been put beyond Seattle.

Morales’ pass pierced the visitors’ back-line, setting Hurtado through on goal. Frei refused to be drawn from between his posts, however, and the unnerved forward placed a tame effort into the Swiss’ hands.

With so many key personnel missing, Sounders FC were lacking their usual attacking potency and threatened little in the closing stages – other than a Marco Pappa curler that rippled the top of the net.

Unable to conjure up an equaliser, the table-toppers must now look to bounce back in back-to-back league and cup clashes with the Timbers.

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Vancouver Whitecaps
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