PORTLAND, OREGON – And so it begins.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC begin their run to the MLS Cup today when they take on Cascadia rival Portland Timbers in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals.
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Here are three storylines to get you set for the match.
'WHY NOT VANCOUVER?'
The 'Caps enter the playoffs after a club-record regular season and eager to prove that they belong on the big stage.
Despite being the youngest team in MLS, Whitecaps FC believe they have what it takes to win the championship. With the throne vacated when defending champion LA Galaxy were eliminated last Wednesday, head coach Carl Robinson's words from this week's training ring loud: "Why not Vancouver?"
When the 'Caps step on the Providence Park pitch today and line up opposite the Timbers, they may see mirror images of themselves.
Vancouver and Portland play with a similar defensive mindset, evident in each side recording 13 clean sheets, which count for best in MLS. Whitecaps FC midfielder Matías Laba led MLS in tackles with 152, while Timbers defender Nat Borchers paced the league in blocks with 32.
They also tallied the same number of points earned (53), road wins (seven), and headed goals (seven) in the regular season. In addition, two of their three head-to-head matches ended in draws. All signs point to an evenly-played match but this series will settle once and for all which side is superior.
HEALTH OR FATIGUE
Whitecaps FC were hit with the injury bug towards the latter part of the regular season but the Knockout Round bye bought them time to recover. If playmakers Nicolas Mezquida, Mauro Rosales or Pedro Morales are able to get back to full form, the 'Caps attack will be much more potent.
On the other hand, the Timbers looked to be the healthier team to end the regular season, but they are coming off an emotional and exhausting 120-minute, 11-round penalty shootout win over Sporting Kansas City on Thursday. Will they have enough gas left in the tank?
Tune in today to find out.
Make sure you don't miss out on the first ever MLS Cup Playoffs match in Vancouver next Sunday, November 8. Secure your tickets now.
Be a part of the best sporting atmosphere in Vancouver! 2016 Whitecaps FC Season Tickets are now on sale. In addition to Season Tickets, Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including Half-Season Packs, 5-Packs, a Youth Soccer Half-Season Ticket, and single match tickets. For more information, visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.