'Caps show spunk before playoffs - The Province

Whitecaps 3 Sounders 2. Road win over Seattle garners a trophy Marc Weber They did it! They brought home the Cup! Not the Commissioner's Cup -- the trophy awarded to the first-place team in the United Soccer League's First Division -- mind you. Puerto Rico locked that up Friday night, rendering Saturday's Vancouver-Seattle clash -- a wild 3-2 Whitecaps win -- largely anticlimactic in terms of the standings. No, the Whitecaps instead played for the Cascadia Cup at the Starfire Sports Complex. That's the impressive fan-based trophy roughly the size of Alfredo Valente that's unknown to many but means much to the small, rabid supporter groups of Pacific Northwest teams Vancouver, the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers. It is awarded on points in games between Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. About 75 Whitecap die-hards made the trip down the I-5 to see what was likely the final USL game between these longtime rivals, whose history dates back to 1974 and the North American Soccer League. A playoff meeting is far fetched and, next season, Seattle makes the leap to the brighter lights of Major League Soccer. If this was the last meeting for a while, though, it was certainly a memorable one. The crowd of 4,401 was treated to a rollicking ride as the Whitecaps exploded for three second-half goals in 13 minutes to make it 3-1, before the home side pushed back in the final 25 minutes. The win earned the Caps some hardware, but showing some spunk in the final game of the season meant so much more. The Whitecaps (15-7-8) open the playoffs Friday at home to the Minnesota Thunder (10-11-9) with the second leg on Sunday in Minnesota. "I said [before the game] that for us it was very important -- even if we didn't have a chance at first place -- to approach this game with the same attitude as we've been doing to give us a little confidence into the playoffs," said head coach Teitur Thordarson. "I felt we did that." Capping off the mad three-goal outburst, fittingly, was Jeff Clarke, a veteran of the I-5 battles. In the 67th minute he dived to head in Justin Moose's corner kick. Forward Eduardo Sebrango and Moose, on a beautifully delayed set up from Martin Nash, began the blitz on Seattle's goal. "It's nice for me to cap off this rivalry that's meant a lot to me in that way," said Clarke. "I've played these guys over 50 times and I don't think it's ever happened like this. Five goals -- it's usually 1-0. It was fun to be a part of." mweber@theprovince.com © The Vancouver Province 2008