By CALEB SONNELAND
What started out as a tightly-contested affair with only a handful of goal-scoring opportunities turned into a goal fest as the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps slugged out a 2-2 draw with plenty of late drama.
In the second installment of this season's Cascadia derby, the Vancouver Whitecaps made the trip down to Seattle to take on its nearest MLS rival at the Sounders' Qwest Field. Coming off a disappointing 2-0 away loss to Real Salt Lake, recently appointed Whitecaps coach Tom Soehn was looking to take advantage of Seattle's 3-2-2 home record.
Designated Player Eric Hassli was on the mark twice for the visitors in a match that proved to be a roller coaster ride. After breaking the deadlock from the penalty spot in the first half, the Frenchman smashed home what could be a Goal of the Season candidate late in the game to split the points in Seattle.
Seattle had looked to have snatched all three points seven minutes from time after it went 2-1 through Osvaldo Alonso to send the Emerald City Supporters into a frenzy.
But much was yet to be written, and Alonso went from hero to villain as he poorly controlled a ball just outside the area and allowed to be picked off by Hassli, who, with his back to goal, whipped a wicked right footed volley into the upper corner of Keller's far post.
"I could give him that shot 99 times and he probably wouldn't score it, but he did today. Sometimes you just gotta shake somebody's hand and say, 'Hey, that's a hell of a goal,'" said Keller of the wonder goal.
Seattle defender James Riley was quick to echo his captain's words. "I'm speechless, for sure. That's an absolutely unbelievable goal," he said. "We said at halftime, if we got one, we'd get the other and we did. Obviously, we have to take it with a grain of salt and get back to work, but it definitely stings for sure. We'll learn from it."
The oft-criticized striker (primarily for his disciplinary record) silenced his critics with a formidable display throughout the game and his equalizing goal in the 85th minute off some poor control from Seattle was the icing on the cake for the Hassli.
"We made a mistake in the back, and Hassli hits an unbelievable shot. So you walk away 2-2, but I thought on the gist of the game, we were the better team," said coach Sigi Schmid.
Statistically, the Sounders manager is correct. His side enjoyed 60% of the possession and edged Vancouver in shots, but the visitors came in and played well to snatch some points away from Seattle in a game with several ups and downs.
The hosts found the score sheet twice in the span of three minutes through Mauro Rosales and Alonso but it wasn't enough to seal all three points for Seattle.
With time running out, frustration was evident around Qwest Field. But in the 81st minute Mauro Rosales poked home the equalizer after Tyson Wahl put delivered a good ball into the area that wasn't dealt with properly by Joe Cannon and the Whitecaps defense and the Argentine was on-hand to register his first goal for the club.
Just three minutes later, Seattle's Alonso gave the Sounders what seemed to be the game-winning goal when he picked up possession outside the area and cracked a left-footed shot into the Vancouver goal.
The visitors had initially been put ahead in the 29th minute after Alonso felled Davide Chiumiento in the area and referee Mark Geiger had no hesitation pointing straight to the spot. Hassli stepped up and cooly chipped the ball down the center of the goal to give his side a lead that would last the majority of the match.
The Sounders travel to BMO Field to take on another Canadian opponent in Toronto FC on the 18th, while Vancouver will play host to the Philadelphia Union on the same day (both matches at 7PM EST).