There had not been a soccer game at Cheney Stadium in more than 35 years, and judging by the action on May 30 it was worth the wait. The Sounders U-23s, in their inaugural season after formerly existing as the Tacoma Tide, battled to a 3-3 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency, who came back from a two-goal deficit late to earn a point.
It was Vancouver that created pressure early, as the Whitecaps built a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute when Ben Fisk sent a low pass to Gagandeep Dosanjh, who drove it in from the right side. Fisk was a pest for most of the first half for the Sounders’ defense, mounting several other threats that were ultimately denied.
The Sounders finally equalized in the 39th minute, as Aodhan Quinn received a pass and sent a through ball to Luis Esteves, who drove a low ball past keeper Callum Irving.
“I just saw an opening, played it through the guy’s legs to Luis and he just slotted it home very well,” Quinn said.
Quinn then put the Sounders up 2-1 just after halftime, stealing a ball near midfield and driving it over Irving in the 47th minute.
“I picked the ball up and then just drove at the defense. They backed off so it opened up for a shot,” Quinn said. “I hit it, and luckily it went in.”
The Sounders added on five minutes later, as Fernando Monge sent a through ball to Sean Okoli for a breakaway, and the Todd Beamer High School grad beat Irving with a low shot to make it 3-1.
“(Fernando) had a great tackle in the middle of the park, and it was more of just a counterattack where he slid me through,” Okoli said. “Being a center forward I have to stay in between the gaps, so it opened up for me. I stayed calm and just finished it.”
“At halftime we just decided to match them up. We changed our formation and went head-to-head with them,” said Sounders head coach Darren Sawatzky. “Same personnel, just a different formation and I don’t think they were ready for it. Our guys did well, they scored good goals.”
But the Whitecaps did not fold, as Caleb Clarke won a scramble for the ball in the box in the 71st minute, moved to his right and curved a shot around Sounders keeper Doug Herrick to close to within 3-2. Herrick had a brilliant save on Dosanjh’s low shot to protect the lead in the 84th minute, but Vancouver finally evened the score two minutes later. Bhupinder Jhutty’s long cross from the right side found the head of Fisk – who held off Sounders defenders – in the box, and the forward nailed it into the left of goal to draw even.
“When you look at the overall season, the Vancouver Whitecaps are a team that’s going to be contending in the end,” Sawatzky said. “To get a win up there and a tie at home, if you’d have asked me early on I’d have said that’d be great, but I do think we gave away a couple points tonight.”
The Sounders followed that up with a huge 1-0 win over the first-place Portland Timbers U-23s on June 2, as Jamael Cox’s goal in stoppage time provided the dramatic victory. The Sounders, now sitting in third place with 12 points, host the Washington Crossfire at Franklin Pierce High School on June 8 at 7:30 p.m. before hosting the North Sound Seawolves on June 10 at 2 p.m.