“I think we had more of the play in the first half, but in the second half they had the better of the play. The first fifteen minutes of the overtime, we kind of took the game back under control.
“It was a great game.
Why write a summary when the winning coach delivers one so concisely, as Seattle Sounders 2’s Ezra Hendrickson did in the wake of his side’s 4-2 US Open Cup Second Round overtime victory over visiting Kitsap Pumas SC before an announced crowd of 1,766 at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Washington.
In what was Seattle’s Open Cup debut, Hendrickson brought several academy talents into the team, which featured only four players — Damion Lowe, Nick Miele, Duncan McCormick, and Victor Mansaray — from a squad elected the Friday before to down OKC Energy FC 3-1 in USL action.
Coach Cameron MacDonald had used the same side in both Saturday’s PDL season-opening 2-0 win at Lane United FC and last week’s Open Cup First-Round victory at FC Tacoma 253. MacDonald made just one change to his team Wednesday night, replacing Justin Ortinau with Rene DeZorzi.
The two sides showed similar philosophies and styles in the early going, with both Kitsap and Seattle looking to possess the ball while moving into attack aggressively. Upon loss of possession, forwards pressed aggressively, providing for a fast-moving opening scene.
Though play was largely even, Kitsap looked more a threat early, perhaps benefiting from being the side that has played together recently.
After a pair of free kicks were unable to find their target and a few more well-played balls went wanting for a better first touch, it was center back Cory Keitz receiving a throw-in from fellow defender Buba Jammeh outside the corner of the Seattle penalty area. Keitz made a nice move to get past his mark into open space to launch a shot from just outside the area, but the ball found only the side netting of Saif Kerwala’s goal.
A fairly typical collision of bodies near midfield resulted in a bit of misfortune for Duncan McCormick. The young academy player was left lying prone on the turf and was ultimately removed from the match, unable to return and visibly frustrated with his situation while relegated to spectator.
Aaron Long replaced McCormick for Sounders 2.
McCormick would later report via Twitter that he was okay and ready to move forward.
Once play resumed, Seattle appeared to find a level of comfort and began to assert themselves on the offensive end. Nathaniel Tonguvala, another youth academy player, used speed and smart passing to team with Vic Mansaray and Qudus Lawal on multiple attacks down the right flank. A takedown of the Sierra Leone youngster led to a foul in Seattle’s offensive third of the field. Pablo Rossi’s attempt from the resulting free kick was dangerous enough to give a thrill, but sailed just over the crossbar.
Seattle continued to build their possession advantage, giving the hosts a series of free kicks and set pieces, none of which resulted in on-target shots, but kept the guests too busy in defense to construct their own chances.
The threat of Tonguvala’s speed forced the Kitsap defense to concede him some space as he brought the ball up the right flank. In one such series, Tonguvala chipped a cross from outside the box for Lawal, who headed it directly to Mansaray, who had far too much space in front of the Pumas goal. Rene De Zorzi attempted to close-down on Mansaray and even knocked the big attacker to the turf with a right leg into Mansaray’s side, but not before the 18-year-old “Homegrown Player” was able to play the ball with his midsection onto his right foot, which he then used to tuck the ball under the charging Grosey for the 1:0 in the 26th minute.
Kitsap attempted to charge forward for a quick response, but efforts either petered out in the end via mis-targeted passes or before they could get going via turnovers in their own end, leading to a few more Seattle chances that went unconverted. The end result was a continuation of Sounders 2 owning the larger stretches of play, with the occasional Kitsap venture into the offensive half, almost exclusively through build-up play.
Sometimes, you have to try something a little more direct, which is how Mike Ramos ended up with the ball behind the Seattle defense, surging toward a one-on-one with Sounders goalkeeper Saif Kerawala. A late interjection of Seattle captain Damion Lowe intercepted Ramos’ path in the 40th. The Kitsap forward was impeded by an outstretched arm that did convince referee Katja Koroleva, even as Ramos tumbled to the turf at the feet of Kerawala. Instead, it was Lowe who was seen as the victim, and Seattle averted disaster in the biggest Kitsap chance of the first half.
Five minutes later Tonguvala again provided pivotal play, carrying the ball through the midfield area and chipping a nice ball forward that forced Matt Eronemo to concede two of three options for his defending efforts. Eronemo opted to shield Lawal away from the ball, rather than attempt to get to the ball himself or challenge the onrushing Rossi. As the ball rolled into the area with only Rossi and empty space surrounding it, the Seattle forward took the time to settle the ball and square himself for a can’t-miss shot to beat the charging Grosey and cruise inside the far post to double Seattle’s advantage shortly before the end of the half.
The second half opened with the sloppiest, by far, stretch of play. Instead of the controlled possession play both sides exhibited the first 45 minutes from nearly the opening whistle, both sides seemed unable to locate their flow upon resumption from the break.
Eventually, though, it was Kitsap, perhaps motivated by the two-goal deficit, who would eventually seize control of play.
Seattle shifted to more of a defensive and counterattacking posture in the early stages of the second half. The insertion of speedy and aggressive Andy Craven in the 59th for Qudus Lawal provided the hosts a threat with fresh legs to send long for direct, over-the-top chances in low-risk attempts at padding the lead.
Kitsap had little choice but to oblige, immediately pushing forward to try to get back into the match. Joe Masumiya, who had a brace for Kitsap last week, ended up with the ball and some working space just outside the area, but fired a grossly mis-targeted shot in the 60th. Kitsap quickly regained possession, leading Jammeh to send a cross into the middle for Jake Bond, whose header sailed just high.
With Seattle’s only offensive chances now coming on the counter and the odd free kick, Hendrickson made another tactical switch, removing the effective but young Tongovula in favor of the more-experienced Sam Garza in the 64th. MacDonald countered by sending forward Mike Chamberlain for midfielder Matt Eronemo.
The changes paid immediate dividends for Kitsap. A Ramos cross sailed just over the head of Hiroki Kobayash and bounced off the turf toward Chamberlain, who headed the ball back across the penalty area toward an unmarked Trevor Jensen. Jensen’s volley left Kerawala standing to watch as the ball struck the underside of the crossbar and landed beyond the goal line to halve the Seattle lead in the 66th minute.
Kitsap continued their second-half surge in search of another goal. Their share of possession led to the rewarding of a soft foul just outside the area. Masumiya’s direct attempt was on target, but was little problem for Kerawala, who calmly cradled the shot in his arms. Kitsap quickly regained possession, providing Ramos a shot from distance, which buzzed the crossbar, but was not quite close enough to inspire Kerawala to attempt to stop it.
Seattle continued to be on the defensive, turning away repeated Kitsap attacks. Eventually, it was Craven pressing the ball after Seattle clearances to midfield and leveraging his speed to make threatening runs that began to give the team with the lead a bit more breathing room in the late stages.
One such run presented a large enough threat that goal-scorer Jensen was forced to wrap his arms around Craven in the 81st as he was about to bolt into Seattle’s attacking half, certain to end up with a great scoring chance. Jensen, accordingly, saw the yellow card. Craven’s next run toward a long ball was blown dead so Seattle captain Damion Lowe, who was lying on the turf in front of his own goal, could be attended to.
The biggest Seattle chance of the late stages saw multiple green jerseys flowing into attack behind the Kitsap defense. In the 90th, Garza drew the attention of Grosey toward the right side and gently slid the ball across the goal mouth for Giuliano Frano who, incredibly, missed the unguarded goal from point-blank range, finding only the side netting.
Grosey quickly sent play in the other direction. As the ball bounded along the edge of the box, Garza headed it back toward Tosh Samkange and Lowe to be cleared. Both defenders made an attempt at the clearance, leading to an awkward and ineffective result, which went directly to a lurking Ramos outside the corner of the area. Ramos chested the ball onto his right foot for a looping volley toward the far post, just over the reach of Kerawala to sail into the back of the net.
Seattle had a pair of set-piece chances for a late decider, but the remainder of the six added minutes elapsed with the deadlock intact.
The brief break between the end of regulation and the start of extra time was enough to have a cooling effect on Kitsap’s late-game surge of dominance, as Seattle seemed to respond positively to having blown their two-goal lead in such dramatic fashion and immediately pushed for control of the added frame.
The first protracted possession since the resumption of play took place deep in Pumas territory, leading to a Rene De Zorzi foul that earned the Canadian central defender a yellow card in the 92nd minute.
Mores significantly, though, was the location of the foul, which saw the ball placed just outside the penalty arc for the free kick.
Rossi stood alone over the ball awaiting the referee’s whistle, took two short steps, and curled a shot just over the wall into the netting toward the far post, leaving Grosey unable to do much but turn for a better angle from which to watch the game-winner arrive.
Kitsap again tried to surge forward for a quick response and won a corner. Ramos delivered a decent ball into the area for substitute Mike Chamberlain, but the headed chance was pushed wide.
As both squads moved back toward the center of the field, a confrontation between opposing players quickly flashed into a shoving-match in the 98th, accented with plenty of antagonistic body language and shouting from both sides. Ultimately, Frano and Chamberlain received yellow cards for their roles in the dust up.
The speed and workrate of Craven had been a nuisance for Kitsap defenders since the moment he entered the match, but was not enough to get that decisive third goal, nor was it enough to prevent Kitsap from gambling a bit on the defensive end so they could press for the equalizer.
But, as they say, if you keep playing with fire…
With the ball in Seattle possession deep in Kitsap territory, Garza made a move down the right side of the area and looked to send a cross into the middle for Craven, who was about to bolt forward from outside the area into the thick of the quickly assembling scene. De Zorzi, with his back to the goal, saw the building threat and simply hauled Craven to the grass before he could escape the defender’s orbit.
Koroleva had little choice but to show De Zorzi his second yellow in the 102nd, dropping the trailing Kitsap Pumas to ten men.
Despite having the lead, Seattle did not opt to immediately go into protective defending of the 3-2 advantage, opting instead to press for a fourth goal to put things out of reach. An enormous opportunity to do just that seemed impossible to miss when Garza ran onto a long over-the-top pass to get into a one-on-one battle with the Pumas keeper. Grosey blocked Garza’s first shot, but did not get enough of it to control where it went, giving Garza opportunity to circle back around the deflection for a second crack, which he launched into the side netting.
Garza featured in the last big scene of the first overtime as well, serving as recipient of a throw-in that crossed nearly the entire width of the penalty area to find him just inside its corner. Garza sent a shot back across the area toward the far post, but skipped just wide.
After the exchange of ends, Seattle finally did settle into a more-defensive posture, leaving open the opportunity for counterattack strikes. Garza switched from scoring threat into traffic conductor, sending first Victor Mansaray behind the Kitsap defense down the right flank for a lovely ball. Mansaray’s cross couldn’t find a target.
Seattle quickly collected the ball from an exhausted and outmanned Kitsap and reset play again through Garza. Garza used the space given him by the Pumas to direct Craven forward and deliver service to the speedy attacker, with the result being a Craven-versus-Grosey confrontation that ended with a shot fired wide of the target.
The final ten minutes of play remained largely in the middle of the field, with the most-notable exception being a free kick won by Craven’s holding play in the Kitsap end, which drew a Cory Keitz foul. Rossi sought his third on a direct attempt, but his shot was too high (113.).
Just when it seemed as if the game was going to fade into a one-goal victory, a ball cleared toward midfield resulted in a footrace between Grosey and Craven just inside Kitsap’s defensive half of the field near the touchline.
“I saw him coming out early and took a quick look before I got the ball,” Craven said. “I saw that he was still out. I just figured that I needed to get the ball over his head. As soon as I hit the ball, I knew it was a goal.”
Craven did arc the ball over the charging keeper and darted around Grosey to jog all the way to the goal line and slide the goal in after the 120th mark leaving Koroleva to put an end to the evening before anyone could even attempt to return the ball to the center circle.
As if a victory in their Open Cup debut were not enough, Seattle will be rewarded with a home fixture when they will face natural-born rivals Portland Timbers 2, who traveled to Pontiac, Michigan for their debut, returning with an 2-0 victory.
Due to the Seattle Sounders’ MLS side hosting Colorado Wednesday night at Qwest Field, the S2-T2 battle is slated for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Starfire Stadium.
Highlights: Kitsap Pumas at Seattle Sounders 2
Post-game interview: Ezra Hendrickson
Post-game interview: Andy Craven