Whitecaps FC end Empire Field era against arch-rivals Seattle Sounders FC

'Caps vs Seattle to close Empire Field

Shea Salinas Mike Fucito

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Playing their final match on Bell Pitch at Empire Field, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4W-14L-10D) return to Cascadia Cup action when they host Pacific Northwest rivals Seattle Sounders FC (14W-6L-9D) in Major League Soccer on Saturday evening.

History and tradition will be in the air at the Pacific National Exhibition grounds this weekend, as the club's Empire Field era will come to a close versus their well-known foes from just down Interstate 5. Tom Soehn's side will be keen to make a positive conclusion to their brief spell in the temporary East Vancouver stadium by earning a result against one of the best sides in MLS. While Saturday's match will be the first time the Emerald City outfit have visited Vancouver for an MLS contest, the game will add another chapter in the long-standing rivalry between the 'Caps and Sounders FC.

Saturday's Empire Field finale between Whitecaps FC and Seattle Sounders FC is set for 7:30 p.m. PT. Individual match tickets start at $20, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277). Visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets for more information on individual match tickets for the club's inaugural MLS season.

Whitecaps FC's home match versus Seattle Sounders FC can also be seen live on TSN and Bell mobile devices at 7:30 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday's contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5:45 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 9:30 p.m. PT.

WHITECAPS FC

The importance of this weekend's match is not lost on Soehn and his squad, with the Blue and White looking to restore their pride and confidence after a disappointing defeat to LA Galaxy last weekend. Effort and application will be required to get a victory against Sounders FC, and the first place of reference Vancouver can turn to for inspiration was the result they earned in Seattle back in June. The need for a win is also essential on two fronts. Not only will it keep Whitecaps FC's hopes of winning a fourth Cascadia Cup title alive, they will likely avoid mathematical elimination from this year's MLS Cup Playoffs with maximum points on Saturday.

Soehn will need to make adjustments on his defensive backline this weekend, as he will be without versatile defender Alain Rochat through suspension. The Canadian-born Swiss international will sit out the derby clash after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season in last weekend's away defeat to the Galaxy. Rochat's absence could see either Michael Boxall and Greg Janicki come into consideration as a centre-back partner for captain Jay DeMerit.

Whitecaps FC will also be without experienced striker Atiba Harris and goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre (both knee), as well as youngster Russell Teibert (toe laceration). Midfielders John Thorrington (groin) and Michael Nanchoff (iliotibial band syndrome) are listed as probable.

SOUNDERS FC

The third MLS season of Sounders FC is shaping up to be their most memorable campaign to date, as Seattle is on the verge of clinching a berth in this year's MLS Cup Playoffs. The match also provides Sigi Schmid's side with their last opportunity to secure their first Cascadia Cup title since 2007. On Tuesday, October 4, Seattle will also look to win a third-straight Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title when they host MLS rivals Chicago Fire at CenturyLink Field. Their recent form in the league has them tipped as a serious contender for the MLS Cup as well, with Sounders FC sitting second overall behind the Galaxy in the regular season standings. They also remain on course to earn a quarterfinal spot in the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League, despite falling 1-0 at home to Costa Rica's Club Sport Herediano on Tuesday.

Schmid's side includes the potent pair of Mike Fucito and Fredy Montero in the attack, while Alvaro Fernandez and Osvaldo Alonso have been essential pieces in the Sounders FC midfield. With a stable backline that includes former Whitecaps FC centre back Jeff Parke, and experienced goalkeeping in the form of Kasey Keller, Seattle should provide a stern test for the 'Caps this weekend.

Sounders FC will be without one key player in Mauro Rosales on Saturday after the Argentine playmaker suffered a small tear in the medial collateral ligament (MCL) of his right knee during Seattle's 3-0 home win over D.C. United last weekend. The South American import joins goalkeeper Terry Boss (concussion), midfielders Michael Seamon (ankle) and Steve Zakuani (leg fracture), as well as striker O’Brian White (leg) on the Emerald City outfit's casualty list. Defender James Riley (concussion) and midfielder Erik Friberg (hip flexor) are listed as questionable. Defender Tyson Wahl, meanwhile, is suspended for the Vancouver trip after accumulating five yellow cards for the season.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Saturday's match is the second MLS meeting between Vancouver and Seattle, and the 113th time these Interstate 5 rivals have met in a competitive contest. Their first-ever MLS meeting on June 11 was a memorable contest at Seattle's CenturyLink Field, as 'Caps striker Eric Hassli wrote his name into Whitecaps FC folklore with his spectacular volleyed equalizer that earned Vancouver a 2-2 draw in The Emerald City. During the preseason, Whitecaps FC and Sounders FC met at the Cascadia Summit on March 6, with Vancouver defeating Seattle 3-2 in Tukwila, Washington. Both clubs also met in the MLS Reserve League in 2011, with Sounders FC reserves defeating Vancouver's second string 2-0 in Washington State on June 7 before Whitecaps FC reserves avenged that result with a 2-1 victory over Seattle's reserves at Swangard Stadium on August 9.

Between 1974 and 2008, Whitecaps FC and Sounders FC met in no less than 111 competitive meetings. The first 28 matches took place in the old North American Soccer League between 1974 and 1983, with the 'Caps recording 17 wins and 11 defeats versus Sounders FC. This included a home record of 10 wins and four defeats during that time. Soccer fans in both cities then had to wait until 1994 for the rivalry to be renewed, with Sounders FC claiming the upper hand during 83 meetings in the United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1). Between 1994 and 2008, Sounders FC recorded 43 wins, 25 defeats, and 15 draws versus Whitecaps FC. This included 19 wins, 16 defeats, and eight draws versus the 'Caps in Vancouver. As a result, Sounders FC lead Whitecaps FC with an all-time record of 54 wins, 42 defeats, and 16 draws, though Whitecaps FC have a better overall home record of 26 wins, 23 defeats, and eight draws against Seattle.

There are also players in both sides that are familiar with the opposition. Whitecaps FC midfielder Pete Vagenas spent two seasons in Seattle before coming to Vancouver, while Sounders FC's Parke spent part of the 2009 USL-1 campaign with the 'Caps. In November 2007, Seattle defender Taylor Graham and striker Roger Levesque played for Whitecaps FC when they hosted LA Galaxy in an international friendly at BC Place.

CASCADIA CUP

Saturday's match will also be Whitecaps FC's third game in this year's Cascadia Cup competition, with 2011 being the first year that Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland are contesting the fan-based trophy as MLS clubs. Founded in 2004, the competition was conceived amongst the supporters of all three clubs, who were then members of USL-1. The Cascadia Cup is awarded to the club that has the best head-to-head record in regular season matches between their Pacific Northwest rivals. Sounders FC currently lead the 2011 standings with five points from three matches played (1W-0L-2D), while the Timbers are second with four points from three matches played (1W-1L-1D). Whitecaps FC are third after claiming one point from two games played (0W-1L-1D). Vancouver drew 2-2 at Seattle on June 11 before falling 2-1 at Portland on August 20.

Whitecaps FC must beat Sounders FC on Saturday to keep their Cascadia Cup hopes alive this season, while Seattle can win the trophy with a victory at Empire Field. Should Vancouver and Seattle draw this weekend's match, Portland will have an opportunity to defend their Cascadia Cup title with a win in Vancouver on Sunday, October 2.

Whitecaps FC are the most successful Cascadia Cup side, having won the trophy in 2004, 2005, and 2008. Before joining MLS in 2009, the USL-1 Sounders were cup winners in 2006 and 2007, while Portland won the title in 2009 and 2010 when the trophy was only contested between Whitecaps FC and the Timbers at the North American second division level.

DOWNTOWN RETURN

Following the weekend clash with Seattle, Whitecaps FC will build up to another Cascadia Cup derby and the club's first match on Bell Pitch downtown at BC Place. The 'Caps host Pacific Northwest rivals and 2011 MLS expansion cousins Portland Timbers at their new home on Sunday afternoon, October 2, at 1:30 p.m. PT. Individual match tickets start at $20, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277).

Whitecaps FC's home match versus Portland Timbers can also be seen live on TSN 2 and Bell mobile devices at 1:30 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to the October 2 contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 11:30 a.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show.

MLS single match tickets are also available for all our 2011 matches on Bell Pitch downtown at BC Place, and range from $20 to $55 (including HST). All tickets are subject to applicable service charges and fees. Fans can purchase these tickets at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca/whitecaps, or Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277).