SEATTLE – For the Seattle Sounders, Friday night’s 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps at CenturyLink Field was defined by offensive struggles, physical play and even a little bit of controversy.
The Sounders struggled to generate meaningful chances throughout against Vancouver and were ultimately done in by a 45th-minute goal from Kekuta Manneh. The loss gave the Cascadia Cup to Seattle’s Pacific Northwest rivals for a second-straight year.
But even with the offensive struggles, Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said he felt his team didn’t necessarily deserve to come out on the short end of the contest.
“I don’t know if it was necessarily a game that we deserved to win,” Schmid said after the game. “But I know it was a game we didn’t deserve to lose.”
Schmid admitted that his team put itself in a difficult position by failing to generate consistent looks on goal and generally not coping well with the Whitecaps’ propensity for clogging up the middle of the field.
However, both Schmid and Sounders players expressed irritation at the circumstances of Manneh’s goal, which came after the 19-year-old forward re-entered the game in the middle of a Vancouver counter-attack after temporarily exiting with an injury.
Manneh came back into play just as Vancouver’s Pedro Morales gained possession for Vancouver, finding himself almost wide open on the Seattle side of the field. After Manneh took a feed from Morales on the break, Sounders defender Chad Marshall tried to close out. But the speedy forward managed to free himself up in the box and sneak his shot underneath the outstretched leg of Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei to tally the game’s only goal.
“I'm expecting for the referee not to give them an advantage,” defender Brad Evans said of the goal. “When we're pushing forward, there's always the risk of a counter-attack. So the referee has to wait until the play's done or they are off on a counter-attack without him getting that unfair advantage from stepping off the field and then coming back on in basically just a perfect onside position there.”
Added defender Jalil Anibaba: “We were all under the impression that Manneh was still off the field. The next thing we knew, he has the ball and he’s running in on goal.”
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The loss is undoubtedly a setback for Seattle as they head into a home-and-home with the LA Galaxy to close out the season. Seattle remain tied with LA atop the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings, but the Galaxy now have a game in hand and play FC Dallas on Sunday.
“We have a lot to play for,” Schmid said. “Our goal of [winning] the Supporters’ Shield haven’t changed, and our goal of winning MLS Cup hasn’t changed. We might need a little bit of help from [FC Dallas] maybe, but we need to take care of business the last two games.”