VANCOUVER, BC – It’s no secret that Vancouver Whitecaps FC still have their sights set on qualifying for the Major League Soccer playoffs for the second year in a row, but they haven’t forgotten about the Cascadia Cup either.
There’s been a lot of talk as of late about Vancouver’s final two games of the regular season against fifth-place Colorado Rapids, which could possibly determine the final Western Conference playoff entrant. But their next two games are just as important – for both their playoff and Cascadia Cup aspirations.
The ‘Caps host Portland Timbers Sunday at BC Place before visiting Seattle Sounders FC in their final Cascadia clash next Wednesday at CenturyLink Field.
“It’s two of the biggest games of the season and they just happen to be right back-to-back, also at a really crucial part of the season,” Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie told whitecapsfc.com. “This is the time where you have to be at your best and this is the time where you have to play with confidence, belief, and togetherness.”
Last meeting: Portland Timbers 1 - 1 Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Each of the three teams have played four Cascadia matches this season and have two remaining. Vancouver split their previous two meetings with Seattle, while both of their encounters with Portland ended in draws.
As it stands, the Sounders sit atop the Cascadia standings with seven points – followed by Whitecaps FC at five points and the Timbers at three points.
A win on Sunday would move Vancouver into the lead – setting up a potential showdown for the Cascadia Cup next week in Seattle.
“Obviously right now it’s the most immediate goal we’ve got in front of us … and we’re in a decent position at the moment,” Rennie said. “It’s something that we’re very focused on.”
The origins of the Cascadia Cup date back to when Vancouver, Portland and Seattle were members of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) First Division. The combined supporters of the three clubs created the two-foot tall silver Cup, which is awarded annually to the team with the best head-to-head record over their Pacific Northwest rivals in regular season matches.
The ‘Caps won the first two editions of the competition in 2004 and 2005 and added a third title in 2008, but have been shutout since then. Seattle and the defending champion Timbers have also each won the Cup on three occasions, meaning this year’s victor will become the most successful club in tournament history.
“It’s important for us, of course,” Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit told reporters earlier this week. “Any time you can win silverware, it’s a big deal. We’ve always asked about having a chance and we still have a chance to win that hardware.”
“These things mean a lot, not just to the players but to the fans as well,” DeMerit continued. “That’s a certain key that we’ve touched on all season and we still have a chance to do that … so we’ll look to make sure we give it our best shot.”