Preview: Whitecaps FC prepare to host Portland Timbers with playoffs and Cascadia Cup in sight

First of back-to-back Cascadia derbies set for Sunday at BC Place

VANCOUVER, BC – The push to the playoffs heats up on Sunday night as Vancouver Whitecaps FC (11W-11L-8D) are set to host Portland Timbers (12W-5L-11L) in a Cascadia Cup derby at BC Place.

FINAL WEEKEND TO SAVE 12 PER CENT ON 2014 SEASON TICKETS

Kickoff for Sunday's match between Portland and Vancouver is set for 5 p.m. PT and is live on Sportsnet 360 (Bell Satellite TV - SD channel 410, HD channel 1410; Shaw - SD channel 54, HD channel 231; Telus - SD channel 115, HD channel 663) and Bell mobile devices. 

'Caps fans can also listen to Sunday’s match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 3 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match.

This is the third time the teams will meet this season, with their two previous meetings ending in stalemates. The Blue and White currently sit four points back of the fifth and final playoff spot with four matches remaining in the season, while Portland sit third in the Western Conference, also with four games left on their schedule.

Needless to say, both teams will be looking for a positive result on Sunday to boost their playoff hopes.  

Last match: Vancouver Whitecaps FC 0-1 Real Salt Lake

WHITECAPS FC

Martin Rennie’s side will be looking to get back on track in the second leg of their two-match home stand. Last week, Whitecaps FC were topped 1-0 by Real Salt Lake in front of the sixth sell-out crowd at BC Place this season. Devon Sandoval’s header in the ninth minute was the difference between the two sides.

The Blue and White had ample opportunities to equalize, coming close on several occasions: in the 11th minute, a Camilo free kick from 20 yards out curled just wide and in the 36th minute Russell Teibert saw his blast from in close stymied by Jeff Attinella.

Goalkeeper David Ousted, the Budweiser Man of the Match, had one of his best performances for the club. The Danish goalkeeper made a number of outstanding saves in the second half to keep the game within reach, recording four saves in total.

It was only the third time Vancouver have lost at home in 2013 (8W-3L-4D). Despite the loss, the 'Caps destiny is very much in their own hands. This is especially true considering they conclude the season with an away-home series versus Colorado Rapids, the team currently in possession of the fifth and final playoff spot.

Sunday will be a stern test for the Blue and White. While the ‘Caps have been formidable at home throughout the season, they have also yet to beat Portland since joining MLS (0W-4L-3D).

It’s possible Rennie’s side could receive a boost from the return of striker Kenny Miller (right adductor tightness) on Sunday. The Scotsman has returned to light training this week and Rennie is hopeful he’ll be available on the weekend.

Out for this weekend are centre back Brad Rusin (right ankle sprain) and striker Omar Salgado (right foot fracture).

The club also announced this week that Jamaican striker Darren Mattocks and Honduran centre back Johnny Leveron have been called up to represent their respective countries for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Both players will miss Whitecaps FC’s mid-week match on October 9 versus Seattle Sounders FC. Canadian talent Russell Teibert has also been called up to represent his country in an October 15 friendly against Australia, but will not depart until after Wednesday's match in Seattle.

Last match: Portland Timbers 1-0 LA Galaxy

PORTLAND TIMBERS

There will be no shortage of Cascadia Cup derbies over the next week, as Portland also meets Seattle in the final match of the series on October 13.

Last time out, Portland recorded a 1-0 home win over two-time defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy.

The lone goal of the match was scored by newcomer Maximiliano Urruti on 52 minutes. Canadian midfielder Will Johnson assisted on the goal. It was Urruti’s first goal for the Timbers since being acquired from Toronto FC, his first goal in MLS, and the MLS Goal of the Week.

Portland’s defence managed to limit LA’s star tandem of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan to just one shot between the two of them. Midfielder Diego Chara played a large part in tracking back and limiting the space for Keane and Donovan to operate and the Colombian was named to the MLS Team of the Week for his performance.

MVP candidate Diego Valeri, who has eight goals and 12 assists in 28 appearances this weekend, played 80 minutes in the victory, which is the most he has played since sustaining an adductor strain back in August.

Heading into the weekend, Portland currently sit in third place in the tightly-contested Western Conference, two points behind second-place Seattle Sounders FC and four points ahead of fourth-place LA Galaxy.

It won’t come easy for the ‘Caps on Sunday, as Portland are 3W-0L-1D in their last four outings, following a mini two-game losing streak at the end of August.

Unavailable for Sunday’s bout are Ryan Miller (left tibia stress fracture), Brent Richards (left ACL surgery), Mikael Silvestre (ACL surgery), Dylan Tucker-Gangnes (concussion), David Horst (right tibia plateau surgery) and Frederic Piquionne (ankle).

August 3, 2013: Portland Timbers 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps FC

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The ‘Caps and Timbers are certainly no strangers to one another. Sunday will mark the 76th time the long-time rivals have met in all competitions. Between 1975 to 1982, the two teams competed in North American Soccer League and from 2001 to 2010 in the North American second division.

Both of their meetings this season ended in hard-fought draws. Back in May, goals from Camilo and Gershon Koffie were almost enough to earn the Blue and White all three points, but a goal from Jose Valencia six minutes from full-time earned Portland a draw.

In their most recent matchup on August 3 at JELD-WEN Field, fullback Jordan Harvey connected on a header from a Camilo corner on 69 minutes to cancel out a headed goal from Portland’s Ryan Johnson at the beginning of the second half. The match also marked Ousted’s MLS debut.

CASCADIA CUP

The Cascadia Cup is awarded to the Pacific Northwest club that has the best head-to-head record in MLS regular season matches between Vancouver, Portland and Seattle Sounders FC. With three Cascadia derbies over the span of the next week, the Cup’s fate is still very much in the air.

The ‘Caps have hoisted the Cascadia Cup three times in franchise history (2004, 2005 and 2008) and currently sit second in the 2013 standings, ahead of Portland and behind Seattle.

NEXT UP

Whitecaps FC fans won’t have to wait long to see their team in action again, as the club will have a two-day break before taking on the Sounders on Wednesday, October 9 at CenturyLink Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT.