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Whitecaps hang on to beat Seattle in entertaining Cascadia finale

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Omar Salgado
On a day filled with fantatic fixtures across Europe — including Liverpool’s demolition of Manchester United — it’s saying something when maybe the most enteraining game on offer was an MLS preseason tilt.

But, anyone who tuned in to watch the Vancouver Whitecaps hang on to beat the Seattle Sounders 3-2 in the finale of the Cascadia Cup — or any of the 4,000 people who packed what’s normally a training pitch in Tukwila, Wash — got to see about as entertaining a MLS preseason game as you’re ever going to see.

Whitecaps fans were treated to some moments of wonder from 17-year old Omar Salgado, the No. 1 pick in the SuperDraft, who isn’t eligible to play a league game until he turns 18 in September. Down 2-0 and, later, 3-1, Seattle didn’t give up the fight, in an open game filled with counterattacks from both sides. And, Vancouver survived 19 minutes of hell at the end of the game as Seattle brought on regulars Osvaldo Alonso and Steve Zakuani to try and get the Sounders on level terms.

Seattle fans were also treated to some inspirational vision and incisive passing from Erik Friberg, the Swedish midfielder the club captured in the offseason.

Salgado and Whitecaps Residency hopeful Russell Teibert put the Whitecaps up 2-0 before the 20-minute mark. Both took advantages of some slack Seattle marking that presented them golden scoring chances.

But Seattle got back in the game right before the halftime whistle. Friberg lofted a high corner into the heart of the Whitecaps’ box. The ball bounded off a couple of heads, but Vancouver couldn’t clear. The ball fell to the boot of Roger Levesque, who spun and beat Jay Nolly.

Seattle got some bad news when attacker Michael Fucito had to leave the game with a thigh injury — even though there was never any serious contact with a Whitecap before he limped off.

But, after halftime, Salgado showed some real brilliance. He found himself deep in Seattle territory, with the fullbacks scattered. Terry Boss, the Sounders’ back-up keeper, charged out to try and take away Salgado’s angle. He lofted the ball over the keeper as he was coming out, an audacious move made off a quick, clever read of what was unfolding in front of him. The ball headed goalward, but was cleared by frantic Seattle fullback Patrick Ianni. But the ball came right down to Camilo, the Whitecaps’ Brazilian trialist, who slammed the rebound home.

Ianni had a chance to score just minutes later, but a great long-range effort slammed off the bar.

But, soon after Zakuani and Alonso were introduced, Seattle got a goal back. Levesque sent a a dangerous low, diagonal ball into the Whitecaps area, that Colombian forward Miguel Montano only had to direct over the line.

The Sounders came at the Whitecaps in the final 13 minutes, plus six minutes of added time, with an energy that would make a neutral observer wonder if he or she was indeed watching preseason football or a Cup final. But the Whitecaps, scrappy, hung on.

Now, if only the Whitecaps can convince FIFA to allow Salgado to play for the team before his 18th birthday…

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