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A derby contest, a blockbuster sporting weekend

01 October 5:18 pm

A derby contest, a blockbuster sporting weekend

By Simon Fudge

There are some weekends in the year that prove to be sporting blockbusters, with many major events happening around the world. This weekend might have been one of them.

There was an historical Ryder Cup golf victory by Europe in the United States and the first Canadian to play in and win Australian rules football’s AFL Grand Final as a member of Sydney Swans (Victoria, BC, native Mike Pyke).

There were also events closer to home, with celebrations for one of our local senior soccer clubs, as Vancouver’s Westside FC completed a quartet of Over-35 titles by claiming their first Western Canadian Masters championship crown in Edmonton, Alberta.

Among the smorgasbord of sporting events was an equally exciting Pacific Northwest derby between Whitecaps FC and Seattle Sounders FC - much in thanks to a passionate sold-out crowd at BC Place.

Saturday’s clash was the 116 th edition of this Interstate 5 rivalry, and while there were no goals to speak of, the match had all the ingredients of a fierce derby battle.

Beyond the bragging rights and Cascadia Cup points that were on offer, Saturday’s match had a major bearing on the playoff hopes of both clubs. The result locked in Seattle’s place for the postseason, while the point was another step towards Whitecaps FC’s aspirations of reaching the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time.

With some help from MLS Supporters’ Shield candidates San Jose Earthquakes (thank you, Steven Lenhart!), the ‘Caps came out of the weekend with the same two-point margin between themselves and sixth-place FC Dallas for the fifth and final playoff spot in the MLS Western Conference.

Of course, the gap could have been more, and Martin Rennie’s squad are fully aware of that. As evenly-fought as the game was on Saturday, a single goal would have likely been enough to take all three points for either side.

But at the very least, it was encouraging to see Whitecaps FC put a highly-rated Sounders FC under real amount of pressure in the second half, and that tends to be a rare experience for the Rave Green. It showed again that Whitecaps FC can battle with the league’s best and that would have restored some much-needed confidence in the squad.

Another positive was Vancouver earning their 10th clean sheet of the season (the first ‘Caps shutout for goalkeeper Brad Knighton) with a defensive display reminiscent of games earlier this season.

With three games to go in the regular season, the draw with Seattle was a further indication that Whitecaps FC may be set to put their lean run of results behind them.

It will require confidence and belief from Rennie’s squad, and an understanding that all will need to step up for the cause. After John Thorrington and Darren Mattocks went down with unfortunate hamstring injuries, Matt Watson and Camilo Sanvezzo answered the call and gave Seattle all they could handle.

Watson, in particular, performed admirably in midfield. He linked up well with his teammates, while arguably looking at his best in possession of the ball than at any point this season.

Those performances will inspire Camilo and Watson’s teammates to be of similar service themselves. After all, it is that time of the year when character is a big requirement for Whitecaps FC and their quest to reach the playoffs.

The short turnaround to hosting Chivas USA will also provide the ‘Caps immediate motivation that the next step to fully restoring their form can be achieved this week.

As always, our supporters will have their role to play on Wednesday night. Let’s all get out to BC Place and send our Blue and White into the Thanksgiving weekend and international break in the best of spirits!

Until Wednesday everyone!