For much of the night, Fredy Montero seemed just a bit off. He wasn't bad per se, but he'd certainly seen better nights. And then, in the 64th minute, it came together; Montero gathered a poor clearance from Jay Demerit just outside the area and used a stunning bit of skill to find space before lofting a left footed shot into the top corner to give Seattle a 2-1 lead. It wouldn't take long for Montero to put things away; just three minutes later Montero dribbled into space outside the box and sent in a powerful chip that deflected off of Demerit and over the keeper. It's tough to say whether the shot would have kept its trajectory and gone in if not for the deflection, but what matters is that it did.
That might be for the best, because the Whitecaps continued to look threatening for the rest of the evening; the Sounders would have other chances-both Sammy Ochoa and Lamar Neagle were denied by the post-but Vancouver were denied several times by the post as well and forced Kasey Keller to make several outstanding saves. The Sounders showed their superiority and certainly played well enough to win, but on another night it's easy to see this game ending up a draw and the final scoreline is likely harsh on Vancouver. They fought all game long and make Seattle work for it, but it wasn't to be.
It was clear that the Sounders were missing Mauro Rosales, but it's reassuring to note that Seattle played well enough tonight against a clearly motivated and inspired Whitecaps side to beat any of the teams remaining on their domestic schedule. Even without Rosales-and Blaise Nkufo, Steve Zakuani, O'Brian White, James Riley, Tyson Wahl and Erik Friberg-the Sounders are still a very good team. With just four league games remaining and an eight point cushion over FC Dallas for a bye in the playoffs the Sounders don't necessarily need to keep up this pace for the rest of the year, but for momentum's sake it would be nice if they could. And it can't hurt the Sounders confidence that they put together a solid performance tonight. The players are aware how important Rosales has been to their success, and if they can win without him it will only serve to magnify the boost to morale when he returns.
And so the Cascadia Cup returns to Seattle for the first time since 2007 (and the first time they've had a crack at it since 2008.) With the win the Sounder move back ahead of Real Salt Lake into second place in the Western Conference and have all but locked up a first-round bye. The focus will now move to qualification for the knockout stage of the CONCACAF Champions League (Seattle can secure a place in the quarterfinals with a win over Communicaciones on Tuesday) and the quest for a third straight US Open Cup. There's still a lot to do, but watching Kasey Keller hoist the Cascadia Cup in front of Seattle's traveling support gave the impression that the captain's trophy-hoisting arm is just getting warmed up.