There was some on-field shoving in the closing minutes of their Western Conference semifinal, with Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro and Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson jawing at each other.
Nearly four decades after last meeting in a true first-division league playoff match, the Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps have wasted little time renewing hostilities.
There was some on-field shoving Sunday in the closing minutes of their Western Conference semifinal opener, with Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro and Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson jawing at each other back and forth.
Both benches also were chirping at one another, and by the end of the scoreless draw Robinson and Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer could be seen having a prolonged on-field exchange at close quarters.
Tough to believe it’s been 37 years since the sides last met in the opening round of the 1980 North American Soccer League playoffs, though the rivalry did ensue in the lower level APSL and “A’’ leagues throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
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“We as a club, I as a head coach, don’t want to have any of that sort of stuff happening,’’ Schmetzer said Monday as his team trained in Tukwila before the second leg of the series Thursday at CenturyLink Field. “I think we have to act in a standard that we set for ourselves. I would never talk to Carl’s players. I think that’s off-limits. I don’t need any chirping between the two benches. I think that’s just a distraction.
“We need to focus on what we do and how we coach rather than what the opposing bench or the opposing team is doing.’’
Lodeiro actually was on the field when Robinson began shouting at him after the midfielder was fouled and went crashing to the turf. Robinson felt Lodeiro showed too much acting ability on the play, something the Uruguayan has quickly become known for throughout the league.
Earlier in the match, Lodeiro was twice dumped inside the opposing box but the referee allowed play to continue on.
On at least one of the two plays, Lodeiro appeared to fall forward with barely any contact made.
“Listen, he’s a super player, he really is,’’ Robinson said afterward. “He was shouting at me in Spanish and I was shouting at him in Welsh, so God knows if he knows what’s going on. Listen, I’ve got tremendous respect for him, he’s a really good player. But I was shouting because I thought he was going over too easy. And I tell my own players not to do that.’’
Robinson also downplayed his postgame exchange with Schmetzer.
“There’s a lot of respect between both coaches, between the two organizations as well,’’ he said. “Yes, there’s emotions, good.’’
The foul on Lodeiro occurred moments after Sounders left back Nouhou fell to the pitch with an apparent leg cramp. Nouhou stayed on the ground motionless as if run over by a bus, causing play to be stopped.
After several moments, even his own teammates could be seen imploring Nouhou to get up.
He finally did — drawing a prolonged chorus of boos from the B.C. Place Stadium crowd that felt he was stalling for time so his team could escape with the road draw.
Nouhou remained in the game.
Moments later, he went down again with the same cramping and the Whitecaps this time failed to follow one of soccer’s unwritten rules by putting the ball out of play so he could gain assistance.
Instead, Cristian Techera of the Whitecaps tried for a goal from distance, but fired the ball over the net. That drew the ire of Lodeiro, who let the Whitecaps know he was displeased. Cristian Roldan then delivered a few shoves, sparking a brief melee.
No red cards were handed out.
“Playoffs, Cascadia,” Roldan said. “Two teams that want to win, that are very competitive. We have guys that are going to do anything for the team. If that’s getting a tackle or getting mad at another player, it’s bound to happen.’’
Schmetzer said a league disciplinary committee is reviewing the late-game antics of Whitecaps defender Ali Ghazal, who appeared to grab Lodeiro around the neck with one arm and Osvaldo Alonso with his other arm during the melee.
Indeed, the late-game fireworks were among the most interesting moments of a match in which both teams appeared to be overly-cautious and playing for a draw. Away goals are the primary tiebreaker in the two-leg aggregate series, meaning the Sounders must win on Thursday to advance.