Extra spicy

Cascadia rivalry, playoff spot add fuel to home finale

Andy O'Brien vs. Portland

Photo Credit: 
(Getty Images)

BURNABY, BC – He may be from a country 4,500 miles away, but the significance of Sunday’s match against Portland Timbers isn’t lost on Andy O’Brien. (4 p.m. PT, Sportsnet ONE and OMNI BC, listen on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca)

The 'Caps centre back has played in front of big crowds before – including a World Cup qualifier in front of 75,000 at the Stade de France in 2004 – so he isn’t likely to be in awe of the occasion.

“The magnitude of this game, with it being a derby and obviously what’s at stake – it adds an extra bit of spice to it,” O’Brien told MLSsoccer.com after a training session at Swangard Stadium on Friday. “We know what we’ve got to do, and that’s win one of the next two games, and the sooner we do that, the better.”

READ: Who's in? Playoff scenarios for MLS' penultimate weekend

While there’s every chance that Seattle Sounders FC could end chasing FC Dallas’ hopes with a win immediately following Vancouver’s game, O’Brien indicated his preference would be to take care of business against the Timbers and make that match moot – not only for the purpose of qualifying for the playoffs, but to continue the momentum ahead of a playoff run.

“Generally speaking, teams that have won [MLS Cup] have been on a roll toward the end of the season,” O’Brien said. “We’ve got two games left in the normal season and we’ve had some good results leading up to these two games, so if we do manage to get a playoff spot, hopefully then we can roll on to the end.”

As the ‘Caps press to become Canada’s first-ever playoff squad, head coach Martin Rennie is spoiled for choice, with virtually every player around the first-team squad available for selection, including Darren Mattocks and John Thorrington, who both picked up hamstring injuries against Seattle on Sept. 29.

READ: Playoff berth, Cascadia curse on line for 'Caps vs. Timbers

“Everybody’s fit, healthy and ready to go,” Rennie said. “We’re probably the only team in the world with no injuries at this point in the season. So it’s a big credit to the medical staff and also to the guys for taking care of themselves.”

When asked if the importance of the occasion would make him think twice about using Omar Salgado given his extended absence, Rennie was complimentary of the US youth international.

“I wouldn’t have any concerns about playing him,” Rennie said. “He probably does better in big games anyway. I think he’s that kind of kid where he gets excited about it and he’s got enthusiasm and he goes for it – but … we’ve got a full squad of players so there’s a lot of players to choose from and all worthy of their chance.”

Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.