Mesh together a game-winning three-pointer, walkoff home run with a Hail Mary football pass and you have the thrill Kelvin Leerdam whipped up with one kick.
In stoppage time against Cascadia Cup rival Vancouver, the Sounders defender deadened a pass from Brad Smith, turned toward the Whitecaps goal and drilled a right-footed shot into the back of the far post net. Most of the crowd of 44,489 at CenturyLink Field erupted in a wild celebration for the eventual 1-0 win Saturday night.
“That’s why pro sports is such a great, entertaining event,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said of the goal. It was Leerdam’s fifth of the season and gave Seattle its first win since May 15.
But part of the delirium was relief from a goal that was waved off by VAR.
In the 60th minute, Sounders midfielder Danny Leyva used a booming kick from about 35 yards out to seemingly score his first MLS goal. However, Vancouver goalkeeper Zac MacMath laid in a fetal position outside his box, apparently in pain from an ankle injury.
MacMath was unable to defend the shot because of a prior tackle with Sounders forward Justin Dhillon. Three Whitecaps teammates also couldn’t deflect Leyva’s booming shot.
After a protest from Vancouver, referee Alan Kelly consulted VAR and called Dhillon’s tackle a foul, waving off the goal. Boos vibrated through the stadium every time MacMath touched the ball for the remainder of the game and partly as he walked off the field with the loss in hand.
In a written statement, Kelly said Dhillon caught MacMath “on the foot with studs in a careless manner” but sportsmanship wasn’t a factor or consideration.
“They’re booing MacMath, but maybe they should’ve been (booing) the ref or someone else,” said Schmetzer of the crowd. “It just made the atmosphere in the building. … And for the home team to come and win late made it exciting for everybody.”
The clubs returned to MLS play after a two-week hiatus for international competitions. Seattle at one point had 10 call-ups, which played a part in closing the opening half of the season on a four-game losing streak.
The Sounders (8-4-5) had six still with national teams for Saturday’s match, creating another unique starting lineup.
Tacoma Defiance forward Dhillon was signed Friday to a short-term contract after the Sounders found themselves limited in options up top. Forward Will Bruin suffered a season-ending knee injury during training earlier this month while first-choice starters at the position in Raul Ruidiaz (Peru) and Jordan Morris (U.S.) are with their respective national teams.
And Leyva, a 16-year-old midfielder, made his first MLS start – the youngest in Sounders history and third youngest in the league. His Sounders debut was a road loss in Montreal where he appeared in eight minutes.
The additions made for an aggressive, attacking team. The Sounders had eight shots on target compared to Vancouver’s five. Seattle also had 86.3% passing accuracy with 55.2% possession of the ball.
Vancouver (4-7-8) appeared overwhelmed by the pressure in the second half and was out of position for Seattle’s strongest goal attempts – Leerdam’s being the game-winner.
“There was no midfield at that point,” Leerdam said of his score. “The game was going up and down, up and down. Fortunately we had a lucky bounce to get the ball and shoot it. The emotion from everybody was great.”
The Sounders play their upcoming two games on the road in New York (Wednesday) and Columbus (Saturday). The team returns to CenturyLink for a match July 14 against Atlanta.
Players will continue to trickle back. Center midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (Uruguay) and defender Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) should return from competing in the Copa America in Brazil.
Ecuador was knocked out in group play while Uruguay – a 15-time Copa America champion – lost in a quarterfinal matchup against Peru on Saturday. Ruidiaz is part of Peru’s national team but has made one appearance as a substitute in the tournament.
Defender Roman Torres (Panama) and midfielder Cristian Roldan (U.S.) are playing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals to round out the Sounders players missing from the lineup. Midfielder Victor Rodriguez was pulled late from selection Saturday due to a tweaked left hamstring.