VANCOUVER, BC – It's the playoff matchup we've all been waiting for.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC host Cascadia rivals and defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders FC in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals tonight in front of what will be the biggest crowd of the season at BC Place. Limited tickets are still available: http://ow.ly/6d3430gbzrX.
KICKOFF: 5:30 p.m. PT | TV: TSN 1/4 | RADIO: TSN 1040
Here are the key storylines to watch.
The ‘Caps needed their playoff moment.
And they got it on Wednesday night with an emphatic 5-0 win over San Jose Earthquakes. It was the club’s first-ever playoff win – and their biggest margin of victory – in Major League Soccer.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
They’ll attempt to ride that momentum against a fresher Seattle side that finished one point ahead of Vancouver to earn a bye to the conference semis. The Sounders will be without Clint Dempsey, who will be serving a one-match suspension, but they’re still a formidable opponent that conceded the third fewest goals in MLS this season.
They’re also the defending champions.
Many will favour them in this series, but that’s nothing new for Carl Robinson and his ‘Caps, who have been written off all season.
“I like knocking champs off perches,” Robinson told TSN. “Write us off at your peril.”
GO BIG OR GO HOME?
It will be interesting to see how both teams approach tonight’s match, considering it’s the first of a two-leg aggregate series. The team that scores more goals over the two legs will advance to the Western Championship.
And if the score is tied at the end of two legs, away goals are the first tiebreaker.
That means a Seattle goal tonight could set them up nicely for next Thursday’s second leg at CenturyLink Field. The ‘Caps will be well aware of that, which might make for a cagey affair.
“You don’t want to leave yourself exposed, but I think playing at home coming off what we just did, we have to go after it,” said Whitecaps FC defender Tim Parker. “We have to attack this game full throttle, but also be mindful and smart of what we have to do at the back.”
THE FREDY FACTOR
Fredy Montero scored his first career MLS playoff goal on Wednesday night.
And, as he wrote on Twitter following the match, there are “many more to come.” Montero, who spent his first four seasons in MLS with Seattle and remains their all-time leading goalscorer, scored three goals in three matches against the Sounders this season.
Can he get another tonight?