VANCOUVER, B.C - The Vancouver Whitecaps' two-year reign as Cascadia Cup champions came to a crashing halt at BC Place on Saturday afternoon after the Seattle Sounders withheld some intense pressure to come away with a smash-and-grab 3-0 victory against the Supporters' Shield leaders.
The match marked the second time this season that Seattle have gone in to Vancouver and beaten the Whitecaps at their own road game, soaking up the pressure before hitting on the break and then capitalizing on the space allowed to them as the home side chases the game.
And after suffering their worst defeat of the season, Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson was left ruing his team's missed chances.
"They've beaten us twice at our place this year, and credit to them for doing that," Robinson told reporters after the game. "The first time they beat us, they went two-nil up in 20 minutes and they managed the game very well. We huffed and puffed. Today, they got the first goal in the first half, maybe against the run of play and chances."
But the Sounders held firm and shocked the Whitecaps on the stroke of half time through Andreas Ivanschitz. The 'Caps then dominated possession in the second half, launching wave after wave of attacks. They couldn't find the breakthrough, however, and were stung again on the counter in the 71st minute when Gonzalo Pineda fired home. Obafemi Martins added a late third on another play in transition.
"It was a sucker punch in the first half," Robinson said. "We have two or three clear cut chances, good chances, and we don't take them. They have one chance and they take it. They're a good team, so that happens.
"Second half, I thought we played on the front foot, we played some exciting football. I can throw out how many shots and entries we had into the final third, but we lost."
Although it's hard to take too many positives from a three-goal home defeat, the constant chasing down of the ball by his players in the second half and their fighting spirit to the end were at least some solace for Robinson.
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"We showed heart," Robinson added. "We showed a spirit and a togetherness in that group, that young group that we've got, and that's what pleases me the most.
"I said to them, 'Be disappointed, because we lost, but be proud because you never gave up even until the end.' When you're two-nil down and three-nil down, and people are leaving the stadium, it's hard, but the boys didn't give in. So that's one of the positives that I'll take because I can't take the result as a positive."
The match was a good lesson for the Whitecaps in what they can expect for the rest of the year, as the games get tougher and there's more at stake.
When you're at the top of the standings, everyone wants to knock you off, and Robinson knows that's the reality facing Vancouver in what is set to be a tense and tight run in to the end of the regular season.
"It's a lesson for me," Robinson said of the defeat to Seattle. "I said prior to the game that we won't get carried away. Sometimes, because we've gone from [the middle of the pack to the top] in a short space of time, it's keeping everyone level headed. We won't get too beat up. We lost the game."