Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller called it as good a strike as you’re ever going to see.
However, the man who struck it said he didn’t see it.
Those who did might remember it for a long time. Vancouver forward Eric Hassli capped a wild final sequence Saturday with a goal-of-the-year candidate that gave the Whitecaps a 2-2 draw with rival Seattle before a sellout crowd at Qwest Field.
“I closed my eyes and shot,” Hassli said. “I had a lot of luck there. It works, so that is why I do it.”
Vancouver had gone into the final 10 minutes nursing a 1-0 lead. But in the next eventful four minutes, the Sounders pulled even on Mauro Rosales’ first MLS goal, then moved ahead on Osvaldo Alonso’s first goal of the season, and finally watched victory disappear when Hassli launched a turn-and-fire strike from the upper right corner of the penalty area into the upper left corner of the goal.
“Throughout world football it happens,” Keller said. “You’re celebrating a goal you just scored, and mentally you can talk all you want about ‘Oh you have to do this, you have to do that,’ but there’s so much jubilation in a goal that sometimes it’s hard to get back focused. It happens more often than we’d all like to admit, especially if it happens to you.”
For most of the game, surrendering a lead seemed the least of Seattle’s problems.
Vancouver took the lead on a 29th-minute penalty kick. The sequence began when referee Mark Geiger whistled Alonso for knocking down Camilo in a top corner of the penalty area.
Hassli took the PK and beat Keller with a low shot to the heart of the goal.
That’s where the score remained until the 81st minute when Sounders defender Tyson Wahl put a cross into the middle of the penalty area. Nate Jaqua went up for it, but Vancouver defender Mouloud Akloul fought him for position and flicked the ball on toward the far post where Seattle’s Rosales knocked it in for the equalizer.
“We worked very hard,” Rosales said. “We were waiting for the goals, and then the goals come.”
The next came three minutes later, when Alonso scorched in a shot from outside the top of the penalty area.
“The goal gave us the lead for a little while,” Alonso said through a translator. “But unfortunately it didn’t end up being the victory goal.”
It wasn’t because even before the green and blue flags stopped waving in the south end, Hassli made Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Alonso pay for a passing mistake on the defensive end.
“The quality of goal was magnificent, but it should have never got to that position on the field,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “We had the ball. The ball came off our guys. When you have the ball there late in the game and you’re winning 2-1, you have to get the ball out.”
The result moved Seattle’s record to 5-4-7. Vancouver moved to 1-6-8, and its winless streak grew to 14 games.
“Let’s not forget that 80 minutes into the game we’re down one-nil and somehow we come back and have a chance to win it,” Keller said. “ I guess if you have to concede a goal you concede on something like that.”
The game marked the inaugural MLS meeting of longtime soccer rivals who first met in 1974. A crowd of 36,502 looked on, including a section of 500 chanting, flag-waving supporters from Vancouver.
The match was part of the round-robin Cascadia Cup competition between Seattle, Vancouver and Portland. The Sounders stand 0-0-2 after two home games.
“There is a lot of respect between the two teams,” Vancouver coach Tom Soehn said. “You can tell there is a build up of energy between the clubs and I think this will be a positive for the Northwest.”
The Sounders return to action Saturday at Toronto FC.