Whitecaps FC aim for a postseason berth versus arch-rivals Portland Timbers

'Caps host Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers in crucial derby clash

For the final time in 2012, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (11W-12L-9D) will play a Major League Soccer regular season home match on Bell Pitch at BC Place, as Pacific Northwest rivals Portland Timbers (7W-16L-9D) make their lone visit of the year on Sunday afternoon.

The task facing Martin Rennie’s side is simple and straightforward - claim a first MLS win over Cascadia rivals Portland this weekend and become the first Canadian club to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs. With the Timbers looking to earn a result to secure the fan-based Cascadia Cup title, Sunday’s match should be another memorable chapter in the folklore of this regional rivalry, with around 1,500 Portland supporters expected to make the trip up Interstate 5 to take in this highly-anticipated derby contest in downtown Vancouver.

Sunday's match between Whitecaps FC and Portland Timbers at BC Place kicks off at 4 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). CLICK HERE for more information on Whitecaps FC tickets.

Whitecaps FC's home match versus Portland Timbers can also be seen live on Sportsnet ONE, OMNI British Columbia (Bell TV - channel 254; Shaw Cable - SD channel 8, HD channel 214; Telus Optik TV - SD channel 8, HD channel 617; Novus Entertainment – SD channel 8, HD channel 179; Delta Cable - SD channel 8, HD channel 611; Coast Cable – SD channel 68, HD channel 611), and Bell mobile devices at 4 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Sunday’s match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 6 p.m. PT. Fans can also follow Sunday’s match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.

WHITECAPS FC

It was nearly two weeks ago that the Blue and White gave thanks to their last opponents in Chivas USA for handing them a somewhat unexpected favour. On Thanksgiving Sunday (October 7), The Goats held FC Dallas to a 1-1 home draw - thus setting up the scenario for Sunday’s match. With the MLS postseason in clear sight, Rennie’s side know it is in their hands to claim the win needed and secure one of the Western Conference’s two First Round Knockout playoff spots. With a home record of 8W-2L-6D, the ‘Caps will be confident of getting the desired result in front of a passionate, sold-out BC Place crowd.

Rennie will have four players back from international duty to boost his various selection options, with winger Dane Richards likely to be in buoyant mood after helping Jamaica to the final round of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF – known as ‘The Hexagonal’ or ‘The Hex’. Kenny Miller made a pair of substitute appearances in World Cup qualifying for his native Scotland, while fellow striker Atiba Harris (St. Kitts & Nevis) and centre back Carlyle Mitchell (Trinidad & Tobago) saw plenty of action with their national teams during the first round of the 2012 Caribbean Cup.

After playing 90 minutes in last week’s MLS Reserve League season finale, youngster Omar Salgado boosts a Whitecaps FC attack that may have top scorer Darren Mattocks available. Along with veteran midfielder John Thorrington, the pair are listed as probable following recent hamstring injuries. With Camilo Sanvezzo in top gear during the home win over Chivas USA, Rennie will have some interesting choices to make for his attack formation on Sunday.

TIMBERS

Eliminated from playoff contention by Whitecaps FC’s home win over Chivas USA on October 3, Portland come to Vancouver with plenty still to play for this weekend. Beyond the bragging rights of a Pacific Northwest derby match and an unbeaten MLS record versus the ‘Caps to maintain, the Timbers – particularly their passionate supporters – want their hands on the Cascadia Cup by earning a second straight league win at BC Place. Portland have not won the fan-based trophy when contested between themselves, Vancouver, and Seattle Sounders FC, and Cascadia Cup success would offer some consolation for what has been a difficult sophomore MLS season for the Oregon-based outfit.

Bringing an end to a six-match winless streak (0W-3L-3D) and earning their first away win of the season (0W-12L-4D) will be required for Portland to win the Cascadia Cup, and the Timbers have always been at their competitive best against Whitecaps FC. Portland will look to striker Bright Dike to lead their attack, with the former University of Notre Dame product’s four goals this season coming in his last nine league appearances. The ‘Caps will also be wary of the threat that Darlington Nagbe, Franck Songo’o, and Sal Zizzo can pose, with interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson sure to have the Timbers fired up for Sunday’s challenge.

Portland will be without defenders Ian Hogg (ankle) and Chris Taylor (hip) for the trip to Vancouver. Former Scotland international striker Kris Boyd is doubtful with an adductor strain.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Sunday’s match is the fifth time that Whitecaps FC and expansion cousins Portland have met in MLS since both clubs came into the league in 2011. The two previous meetings this season took place at JELD-WEN Field in The City of Roses. On May 26, the ’Caps earned a 1-1 draw when Mattocks cancelled out Boyd’s second-half strike. On August 25, Portland secured their first MLS victory under Wilkinson after goals by Nagbe and Songo’o earned the Timbers a 2-1 home win. Vancouver’s Miller scored his first goal in MLS just before halftime.

Sunday's match is also the 73rd all-time meeting between Whitecaps FC and Portland, going back to the 1975 North American Soccer League (NASL) season. Vancouver hold an all-time competitive record of 33 wins, 27 defeats, and 12 draws versus Portland, with Whitecaps FC registering an all-time home record of 23 wins, eight defeats, and three draws. This included 10 wins and 11 defeats versus the Timbers in the old NASL between 1975 and 1982, as well as 22 wins, 10 defeats, and nine draws against the Timbers in the old United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) between 2001 and 2009. In the United States Soccer Federation Division-2 Professional League (USSF D-2) season of 2010, Whitecaps FC registered one win, three defeats, and two draws versus Portland.

There are several player connections between these two Pacific Northwest rivals. In 2008, Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Brad Knighton spent time on loan with USL-1 side Portland when he was a member of New England Revolution. Salgado, meanwhile, trained with the Timbers during the USSF D-2 season of 2010, while Timbers midfielder Charles Renken had a short spell with Whitecaps FC Residency during the program’s 2009-10 year. Gershon Koffie and Timbers counterpart Kalif Alhassan have appeared for their native Ghana at the U-20 international level. The Vancouver pair of Mattocks and Michael Nanchoff are former teammates with Portland’s Nagbe at the University of Akron, while Whitecaps FC defender Greg Klazura played with Timbers striker Dike at the University of Notre Dame.

CASCADIA CUP

Sundayʼs match is also the final contest in this yearʼs Cascadia Cup competition, with 2012 being the second season that Vancouver, Portland, and Seattle Sounders FC 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 the United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1). The Cascadia Cup is awarded to the club that has the best head-to-head record in MLS regular season matches between their Pacific Northwest rivals.

Sitting second at 2W-1L-2D, Portland need a victory over third-place Vancouver (0W-2L-3D) to leapfrog leaders and current holders Seattle (2W-1L-3D) and claim the Cascadia Cup title for the first time in a three-club competition.

Vancouver and Seattle are the two most successful sides in the Cascadia Cup. Whitecaps FC won the trophy in 2004, 2005, and 2008, while Sounders FC won the title as a USL-1 club in 2006 and 2007, and as an MLS outfit in 2011. Portland won the Cascadia Cup in 2009 and 2010 when the trophy was only contested between Whitecaps FC and the Timbers at the North American second division level.

FAN APPRECIATION DAY

With Sunday being the final home match of the regular season, Whitecaps FC will celebrate Fan Appreciation Day, with events and offers taking place at BC Place. They include a mullet barber shop on ‘Caps Kickoff on Terry Fox Plaza to support captain Jay DeMerit’s vow to grow the back of his hair until Whitecaps FC qualify for the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs, with proceeds going to the United Way of the Lower Mainland. There will be food and merchandise discounts, while 28 lucky fans will receive Whitecaps FC jerseys off the back of Rennie’s squad after the match. 8,000 fans will also receive a Whitecaps FC toque from match sponsor Kia upon exiting BC Place.

REGULAR SEASON FINALE

Following Sunday’s important home clash with Portland, Whitecaps FC will wrap up their 2012 MLS regular season schedule with a second visit of the season to Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake on Saturday, October 27. Kickoff from Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, is set for 6 p.m. PT and can be seen live on Sportsnet ONE and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to the October 27 match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 4 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 8 p.m. PT. Fans can also follow the October 27 match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.

On Saturday, October 20, at 9 a.m. PT, all Whitecaps FC supporters will be able to secure their seats at BC Place for the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs. Should the Blue and White qualify for the MLS postseason, they will secure the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and play in a one-match First Round Knockout game away to the fourth-place finisher in the Western Conference standings on Wednesday, October 31, or Thursday, November 1. If they are successful in that match, Whitecaps FC will have the potential of hosting both the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal series on Sunday, November 4 or Monday, November 5, and the first leg of the Western Conference Championship series on Saturday, November 10 or Sunday, November 11. CLICK HERE for more information on Whitecaps FC single match playoff tickets.