VANCOUVER, BC - It's shaping up to be another Cascadia Cup battle on Sunday [6 p.m. PT; TV: TSN, RADIO: TEAM 1410] with both Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Portland Timbers heading in to the match in fine form.
Vancouver are now unbeaten in their last five MLS matches, for Portland that streak runs to six, and there is a single point between the sides in the Western Conference standings – though the ‘Caps have two games in hand.
That closeness is not surprising for two teams that played out three draws in their meetings last season. They match up well, and doing just that during the game has been the big focus for Whitecaps FC in training this week, especially in the midfield areas.
“If you can win the midfield battle, as I put it, and dominate that area then you've got a good chance of winning the game,” Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson told MLSsoccer.com.
“That's not to say you win it every time but it gives you a good platform to build on, not just on the defensive side by stopping them but also on the attacking side. If we can dominate that area, I think we have the attacking weapons that can create chances, then it's down to us to try and take them.”
The teams may be familiar foes but Vancouver will come up against one new face on Sunday in the shape of Portland's on-loan Nigerian striker Fanendo Adi, who scored his first goals for the Timbres in their midweek win over Chivas USA.
“He'll be judged on his goals, he scored two goals. I think he's a handful, he likes the ball, he's got good movement off defenders," Robinson told reporters. “He likes to try and get on the back of them with his little movement patterns, but he's a different dimension to what [Max] Urruti is.
“Urruti has got super movement, obviously not as big or physical as Adi, so whichever way they go, I'm sure whoever starts the game, the other one will have an effect off the bench.
“We're going to have to be prepared for both of them. But I'm more than comfortable with my back four players and midfield players to be able to handle that threat and if we can, obviously it will give us a good platform.”
One man that will be tasked to stop Adi's aerial threat is Jay DeMerit, who knows that the Nigerian adds a different threat to an already dangerous Timbers attack.
“He's a big, athletic guy and really brings a different element for them,” DeMerit said. “Most of the guys that play up front for them are tricky guys or guys that have a bit of flair. So he brings a different element, more of a physical side of that kind of element. We're going to have to battle and stick with his pace and make him play.
“He scored two goals [on Wednesday] so he's riding high but we'll make sure we stay tight to him.”
It’s not too late to participate in the best sporting experience in Vancouver. Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including prorated season tickets ($220), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets, and a youth soccer half-season ticket. Single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.