Aodhan Quinn (photo by Chris Coulter, SoundersPhotos.com)
Tacoma, WA – The Sounders U-23 kicked off their weekend double header with a strong showing as they took down the Washington Crossfire 2-0 Friday night at Franklin Pierce High School.
Great play by the Sounders U-23 defense held the Crossfire without a shot on goal until midway through the second half, and goals by Sean Okoli and Fernando Monge put the Sounders U-23 ahead for good.
The Sounders U-23 looked like they had struck gold in the first minute, when a poor clearance from the Crossfire keeper left him stranded out of goal. The ball found Sean Morris on the right side of the top of the box and he tried to beat the scrambling keeper but his first touch volley found the side netting.
In the 8th minute, the Sounders U-23 got on the scoreboard first. Sean Okoli took a bouncing ball at the top of the box, faced his defender and flicked the ball to himself and then took his shot; first touch. The ball dipped toward the far corner, ricocheted off the post, and in the goal for a Sounders U-23 1-0 lead.
The Crossfire had their first chance of the game in the 13th minute. Crossfire forward Adam Mena touched the ball past his man in the box and looked to have a clean shot at Doug Herrick, but DeAndre Yedlin recovered in time to get a foot in front of the ball and slowed it down enough so Herrick could make the easy save.
Later in the 24th minute, Yedlin was chopped down at midfield as he broke out of the back with the ball. A yellow card was given to Crossfire’s Ben Fisk for his strong challenge.
Okoli looked to be on the board again in the 28th minute as Morris headed a bounding ball backward to the Sounders U-23 forward who struck the ball first touch with power and nearly beat the Crossfire keeper, who was able to push the ball just wide for a corner.
Then in the 36th minute the Sounders U23 looked to add to their lead again as a short corner kick found an open Nick McCluskey at the top of the box. He struck the ball first touch with topspin, and had the keeper beat as the ball dipped toward goal, but it found the cross bar and went over the goal for a goal kick.
The Sounders U-23 kept the pressure on all the way up to the halftime whistle. Their last chance came from a free kick from 10-yards outside the box seconds before halftime. The ball was touched to Aodhan Quinn who fired a frozen rope on goal, but right at the Crossfire keeper who was able to make the save.
HALFTIME - Sounders U-23 1-0 WA Crossfire
The Crossfire came out of the locker room with attack on the mind. Within a minute of the second half whistle they managed two chances in the box, one from a long throw, and another from a corner. However, both chances were turned away by a well-organized Sounders U-23 defense.
Doug Herrick was finally tested in goal in the 55th minute when the ball fell to a waiting Crossfire forward at the top of the box who was able to get his shot on goal. Herrick was up to the challenge and scooped the shot off of the short hop and secured it to his chest. Shortly after in the 57th minute Herrick raced off his line to grab a long free kick between Crossfire attackers.
Crossfire was able to keep the pressure on the Sounders U-23 defense in the 65th minute with a low cross into the box that found Nate Sackeyfio. He was able to direct a shot on goal, but it was deflected out for a corner. On the ensuing corner there was more mayhem in the box as the ball bounced around before Herrick was able to get a strong punch on the ball to clear it from danger.
The Sounders U-23 were finally able to find their second half attack in the 70th minute as a streaking Morris gathered the ball on the right side of the area and fired a cross into the box. Two green jerseys were waiting, but the Crossfire defense was able to secure the clearance.
Then in the 78th minute, last week’s hero, Jamael Cox, picked up the ball at the corner of the box off of a short corner kick and fired a bending cross to the back post. Fernando Monge ran on and perfectly placed his header into the back corner of the goal to give the Sounders U-23 their second goal of the evening.
As the game wound down the Sounders U-23 were able to secure the victory with a strong effort from the defense. The Crossfire were able to put a lot of balls into the box in stoppage time, including a free kick given just outside the box, but the green jerseys backed by Herrick kept the ball out of the goal for the shutout.
With the win the Sounders U-23 earn three points and jump ahead of the Crossfire into a momentary three-way tie for first place in the PDL Northwest Division standings. The Kitsap Pumas, Portland Timbers U-23, and now Sounders U-23 sit atop the standings with 15 points each. The Pumas and Timbers will face off on Saturday in Bremerton.
The Sounders U-23 will have Saturday off before returning to the pitch on Sunday to face the North Sound SeaWolves FC at Franklin Pierce High School at 2:00 p.m. Tickets for the match are available at SoundersU23.com.