The Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders have met 111 times over two eras (74-83 and 94-08) and now meet again as the Cascadia clubs renew their rivalry at Qwest Field on Saturday. Over the years the Whitecaps held the advantage in the NASL days while Seattle had a better head to head record in the USL.
Once again returning from another suspension Eric Hassli will need to return the form he displayed in the last three or four games before his sending off. The midfielders and Chiumiento will have to do their job to service the French striker so he can do his job in the final third.
While the Sounders have had Freddy Montero come off the bench as a substitute for the last two games he still is the most dangerous forward on the roster. The Caps will have to mark the best finisher and arguably best playmaker on Seattle.
With the team struggling to score the Whitecaps need Alain Rochat to not only play his strong defensive game but also contribute going forward. He showed flashes when he unleashed a cannon, in Salt Lake, that was barely stopped by Rimando.
One of the best holding midfielders in the MLS, Osvoldo Alonso rarely allows passes to get by him in the central midfield. Once he gets the ball the former Cuban international is quick to push the ball forward to the flanks and his central midfield partner.
WHO’S ON FORM
While there have been cracks exposed in the backline in the last few games, those cracks weren’t caused by Jay DeMerit. The World Cup veteran has been a rock since coming back from injury as he is always in the right position and keeps the rest of the backline organized.
While it may be Kasey Keller’s last season in the MLS, it won’t be because he isn’t able to perform a t a high level. Without him and his timely stops the Sounders would have lost points and be much lower in the standings.
9th in Western Conference
Last Game: 2-0 Loss at Real Salt Lake
3rd in Western Conference
Last Game: 0-0 Draw at Chicago Fire
OUT: FW Atiba Harris (knee), MF John Thorrington(calf), MF Philippe Davies (ankle), GK Brian Sylvestre (adductor)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Jonathan Leathers (calf)
QUESTIONABLE: Alvaro Fernandez (hamstring)
These two Cascadia rivals renew their derby as for the first time since 2008 the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders meet in league play. In the past no matter who had the better record in the league, the games were always closely contested and filled with intensity. It is unknown whether that same level can be reached on the pitch with such a different cast of players since their last meeting in the USL. The teams met twice in the preseason with the Sounders winning 1-0 in Arizona and the Caps claiming a 3-2 victory in the Cascadia tournament.
For the Whitecaps, expect a similar lineup as the one that played Chivas ten days ago in Los Angeles as once again the Caps will welcome back Eric Hassli, from a suspension, to play as the target striker. Chiumiento should get his third game playing behind Hassli as the withdrawn striker and with a week of training should be able to show more in that position. The midfield should stay the same with Koffie and Morfaw in the middle and Salinas with Camilo on the wings.
Jonathan Leathers could be close to returning to the starting eleven but if doesn’t then either Duckett or Knight will start at RB opposite Rochat and with DeMerit combining with Akloul in the middle of the backline. After his performances from last week, Joe Cannon should remain as the starter in goal and keep Jay Nolly on the bench.
While it won’t be an easy task for the Whitecaps to beat Keller, they first must make into scoring areas which will be a difficult task in itself. The Caps will have to use the wings as the Sounders are very solid defensively in the center of the pitch but can be had exposed on the wings. If Camilo and Salinas can make some early runs down the sides it will open up the middle for Chiumiento to work his magic.
The Sounders are constantly attacking when they play at Qwest Field and are backed by Emerald City Supporters. There needs to be a full ninety minutes of tight defensive play as the backline will be under an extreme amount of pressure. Their midfield is the strength of the Sounder attack even with Zakuani and designated player Fernandez unable to play due to injury. Seattle have been very dangerous on set pieces, especially on corner kicks, as their central defenders have come up and scored two of their last three goals.
The Whitecaps need to be on top of their game in this clash of Cascadia rivals and with a week of training in this new system there can be no more excuses. When these two teams play one can essentially throw out the records and the club’s place in the standings and expect a battle on the pitch. In a league where anything is possible the Whitecaps are due for some luck and with some luck and tight formational play, an upset could be in the cards for the expansion side.