Not once, but twice were the Vancouver Whitecaps gifted penalties by referee Mark Geiger, and that proved the difference at CenturyLink Field Saturday night, as the Seattle Sounders fell 2-1 to their Cascadia Cup opponents to start their season 0-3 for the first time in team history.
First it was Christian Bolanos getting clipped by a ghost in the ninth minute, and then Blas Perez leaning into the sliding tackle attempt of Chad Marshall. The latter clearly involved contact and was the correct call, but nevertheless it was an act by Perez and sadly decided the game on fouls.
Both times, Pedro Morales stepped up to the spot and struck home the penalties to give the Whitecaps the go-ahead goals they needed. The Chilean made no mistake in scoring his second and third goals of the 2016 Major League Soccer season.
Seattle's lone goal came on a superb free kick off the left foot of Andreas Ivanschitz. The Austrian stepped up and directly slotted the set piece home top-left and past goalkeeper David Ousted to tie up the score at 1-1 in the 52nd minute.
Vancouver Penalty No. 1 Puts Whitecaps On Top In First 45
The game started off evenly, both sides with solid passing and control in their own halves as neither had a clear advantage.
Bolanos drew the first chance of the game in the ninth. The winger was released down the right side with a through ball and, two steps ahead of Seattle defender Joevin Jones, went down just as he entered the Sounders' penalty area. At game speed, it appeared as if Jones had clipped the heel of Bolanos, but upon further replay consultation, it's clear that the Costa Rican tangled his own feet up.
But Mark Geiger pointed right to the spot and Pedro Morales buried the penalty to make it 1-0 Vancouver.
Seattle attempted to strike back and equalize in the 21st minute after numerous chances on both halves of the pitch. A Clint Dempsey free kick attempt was deflected out for a corner, and the ball was curled into the box by Ivanschitz from the flag. Nelson Valdez got his head on it for a lobbed attempt at goal, and his shot nearly rolled in bottom-left, but Ousted made the save and a foul was called right on the goal line against a very aggressive Jordan Morris.
The Sounders began to dominate the chances as half time approached, but Vancouver had the Rave Green's number on the scoreboard, where the score 1-0 was still present.
Valdez got another chance in the 31st, given a ball by Jones approaching the middle-left portion of the Whitecaps' penalty box. Ousted came out to deny the chance, which he did, but on the back end of the play, Jones was taken down with a studs-up tackle, but Geiger maintained a no-call and play continued as the 'Caps were awarded a free kick on Valdez.
Dempsey got his head on a Tyrone Mears cross in the 33rd minute, just failing to turn the header quite on goal, with his attempt going quite a bit wide to the left. On the other end, a 35th-minute Bolanos screamer was gobbled up by Sounders 'keeper Stefan Frei.
From there, play cruised into the half time interval, Seattle controlling play but Vancouver up on the scoreboard.
The chances continued for Seattle as the second half began, first off with a Chad Marshall header parried away by Ousted off a 48th-minute Ivanschitz cross. In the 51st minute, Dempsey drew a free kick to the top left side of the box, and that set up the game-tying score for the Sounders.
Ivanschitz and Dempsey stepped up, to the right and left behind the ball, respectively, and instead of having the American take it as he has for the majority of 2016, Ivanschitz straight away launched a phenomenal strike into the top-left corner, past Ousted's all-out dive and to the back of the net for a goal.
Penalty No. 2 Puts 'Caps Back In Driver's Seat
Play calmed down in terms of opportunities on goal over the next 20 minutes, but it all heated up much further in the 73rd minute on a ball through to Blas Perez in the Seattle penalty area.
Perez got a ground lead-in ball towards the box, and Chad Marshall, trailing him from the back-left side, caught up and dove across Perez to just push the ball away from grasp. The Panamanian trudged into the outstretched body of Marshall and went down, prompting the second penalty against Seattle, and a yellow card on Marshall.
For the second time, Geiger pointed to the spot, and Morales was the benefactor, converting his second penalty of the match to earn a brace.
Seattle had one more major chance before the game finally ended, with the Sounders growing tired and the Whitecaps beginning to fill with increased fire. Joevin Jones took a ball down the left side of the pitch with momentum and slid it across the box to a trailing Dempsey, who, with Ousted covering the side of Jones, had a wide-open left side of the net.
But it just wasn't his day, and Dempsey slotted his attempt just wide right.
The rest of the game was dominated by some promising Vancouver chances, but it was all the same, the Whitecaps picking up three points at Seattle's home. After the match, there was no more drama. Geiger shook coach Sigi Schmid's hand and walked off the pitch among a sea of boos.
And that's how the Seattle Sounders of 2016 started the season 0-3.