(Reuters) - Defending champions Seattle Sounders played out a goalless draw against host Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the Western Conference semi-final of the Major League Soccer on Sunday.
Both teams took late shots at stealing an advantage but could not score in the evenly contested game at B.C. Place Stadium.
The Sounders came into the match slightly undermanned with striker Clint Dempsey serving an automatic suspension for his red card in the season finale.
Midfielder Victor Rodriguez was also a scratch as he misses time with a quad-muscle pull.
Still, Seattle aggressively sought out a score knowing that away goals are the first tie-breaker if the aggregate score is tied after the two-game series. Seattle’s Kendall Waston nearly put his team ahead as he took a cross from Nicolas Lodeiro but hit the crossbar.
Chad Marshall failed to direct his header past Whitecaps keeper Stefan Marinovic, two minutes into the second half.
“We understand that there’s an away goal rule," Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei told reporters.
“But you can’t bank on that. I mean, they have to score now. A 0-0 tie isn’t going to do them anything at our place. And like I said, we fancy our chances going home."
Vancouver’s own chances came up short in front of its home crowd when Brek Shea's attempt was saved by Roman Torres in the 30th minute.
Each team will again fire away searching for victory when the series resumes with the second leg in Seattle on Thursday.
“We know we can play a little bit better but it’s about how well you play. I’ve been in enough games where you play really well and you don't win the game,” said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson.
“It’s about finding a way to win and we’ve done it all season. We have to go on the road to a difficult place. They’re the reigning champs for a reason."
The series resumes with the second leg in Seattle on Thursday.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)