Scouting report: Breaking down Saturday's Empire Field finale
What more can we ask for than playing Seattle Sounders FC in the last game on Bell Pitch at Empire Field. Sounders FC are second in the MLS standings to LA Galaxy, they are our main rivals in the league, and the Cascadia Cup is on the line. It is all set up for a great send off for Empire.
In the games played so far in the Cascadia Cup, there have been two draws and two games decided by one goal, so it goes without saying that this rivalry match will be closely contested as well. The game in Seattle was one of the best performances by the 'Caps this year, where they really controlled most of the early play and led 1-0 for most of the game. Unfortunately, they had a five-minute lapse that cost them two goals and ended up tying the match 2-2 on a brilliant goal by Eric Hassli.
As for Seattle, they continue to go from strength to strength, but they are in the middle of a busy schedule with CONCACAF Champions League games in between MLS matches. Even though Sounders FC are virtually in the MLS Cup Playoffs, they are treating this match with great importance. "We have a big game in Vancouver on Saturday, it is a Cascadia game, which is very important to the fans in Seattle," Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said after their 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League defeat to Costa Rica's Club Sport Herediano on Tuesday. Schmid showed where his priorities are this week by resting nine players that featured in their 3-0 home win over D.C. United last weekend.
It really does make for a cracking game, as Whitecaps FC have to get a win to have any hope of winning a fourth Cascadia Cup title. It will be no easy task, Sounders FC normally play a 4-4-2 formation and have been very tough to break down on the road, only giving up 14 goals in 14 away matches, and only having three away defeats. Kasey Keller is still solid in goal and former 'Caps defender Jeff Parke leads the back four for Seattle. Cuban midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is one of the best defensive players in the league.
Schmid's teams like to attack on the flanks, and I am sure they will have taken notice that the three LA Galaxy goals against Vancouver last weekend all came from crosses. The 'Caps fullbacks will have to be very disciplined or get cover from the midfield, if they get caught up the pitch and Seattle hit them on the break. Fredy Montero and Mike Fucito are two small and quick forwards, who are in very good form right now, so Vancouver's defence will have to make sure they don’t get caught too high up the field, as the pair are always looking to get in behind opposing backlines.
The opening game on Bell Pitch at Empire Field was a perfect day, as we beat Toronto FC 4-2 in front of a sell-out crowd. With this being the last game at Empire Field and us playing Sounders FC our arch-rivals, I can see our fantastic fans willing the Whitecaps FC players on, and we have seen how the 'Caps players have responded to the crowd on more than one occasion this season.
A perfect start and a fantastic finish is what Empire deserves, and Whitecaps FC players and fans can write the perfect ending this Saturday night.