By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
VANCOUVER, B.C. — Sounders FC combined one of its worst halves of the season with one of its best Saturday.
The result was a 2-2 tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps — and perhaps the beginning of a style that could work as the long season plays out.
Seattle fell behind 1-0 early, and might have been fortunate to have hung that close at halftime.
In the second half, coach Sigi Schmid tweaked the formation and his club responded by coming from behind twice: first on a header by Eddie Johnson and then with a precise finish from 20 yards by Fredy Montero in the 90th minute.
“We could have went one of two ways, and we went the right way,” Johnson said. “We didn’t give up and didn’t put our heads down, moaning and stuff and pointing fingers. The most important thing is we know we’re a team that can create opportunities, and we believe in our abilities.”
The game was played before a sellout crowd of 21,000 at BC Place Stadium. An estimated 1,000 in attendance were Sounders supporters, taking in the first match of the 2012 Cascadia Cup round-robin between Seattle, Vancouver and Portland.
The home fans got to cheer first as the Whitecaps side jumped ahead in the 12th minute. Seattle’s defense got caught pushing forward and was out of position when Vancouver took possession at midfield. Omar Salgado sent a pass to Alain Rochat, who carried through open space down the left side. When no one closed on him, he fired past keeper Bryan Meredith.
“In the first half we didn’t do a good job against the central part of their midfield,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “… We were constantly playing three-against-two. What we did at halftime was we dropped Montero into that hole a little bit … and played more of a 4-2-3-1 to match up a little better with that. I also, the guys I think were a little more honest. I think we cheated a little bit defensively in the first half, and I think that gave them opportunities. In the second half, we did a better job of that.”
The change registered almost instantly as Seattle scored in the 47th minute in a chain of firepower: Montero to Mauro Rosales to Johnson, who headed it past Joe Cannon.
“It was a good build up,” Johnson said. “Whenever the ball goes out wide to Mauro, it’s just try to get in the box and get in between the two center backs. … It was a well-crossed ball. I think him and I are beginning to develop a little partnership.”
An odd goal sent Vancouver ahead again in the 82nd minute. Camilo Sanvezzo lofted a free kick toward the front of the goal mouth, ahead of a cluster of Whitecap attackers and Sounder defenders. Meredith watched for a redirection that never came, and the ball bounced untouched into the net.
“It was tough,” he said. “… I had to stay and just follow the ball along just in case of a deflection — them or us. Unfortunately we just weren’t able to clear the ball and it snuck in the back of the net.”
Seattle salvaged the draw in the final minute of regulation, as Meredith launched a long kick, which Johnson headed on to Montero at the top of the penalty area. There, he took one touch for positioning and then directed the ball into the top right corner.
“Massive, massive point today,” Johnson said. “For a player, in these rivalry games, you don’t know how much that means to our fans to leave with something. They drove all the way up here and came out to support us, it would be sad to go back with nothing. I think having them there the whole game, rooting us on, I think we pulled it off for them.”
With their only one-game week of May behind them, the Sounders now face another pair of league matches this week: Wednesday against Columbus at home and Saturday at Chivas USA.