Portland is unbeaten since a season opening 1-0 loss in Vancouver
BY IAN WALKER
News Service, Vancouver Sun
Tonight at Portland Timbers
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The Vancouver Whitecaps' focus shifts from the Nutrilite Canadian Championship to league play for today's match against the Portland Timbers at PGE Park.
More than the three points, a win would ensure the defending United Soccer Leagues First Division champions retain the Cascadia Cup for a second straight year. Vancouver claimed the upper hand in securing the fan-based trophy with a 1-0 victory over Portland at Swangard Stadium earlier this season. The Whitecaps head south buoyed by the fact they are unbeaten in four games against their I5 rival, dating back to May 24 of last season.
Vancouver enters the game fresh of a pair of important victories over the Montreal Impact in Nutrilite competition to put them in a favourable standing for Canada's lone berth in CONCACAF Champions League play. That said, the Whitecaps will be looking to return to their winning ways in league play after a 2-1 loss to the Rochester Rhinos in a game Vancouver dominated at home on May 16.
"We've seen a lot of good things from the team in the last little while, especially against Montreal," said Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson, whose side is 3-2-2 in USL play. "Even though our focus comes back to the league, it is important that the players continue to perform as they have been doing lately."
Tonight's match will be Vancouver's seventh this month -- and with Tuesday's crucial Nutrilite encounter with Major League Soccer's Toronto FC looming -- Thordarson expects he may tweak his starting 11.
"We might play with a bit of a different line-up to what we have been focusing on," he said. "We have two or three players that might need some rest after playing a lot of our recent games, so some players may not be involved for the entire match on Saturday."
The Timbers (3-1-3) are undefeated in their last six league games, with three wins and three draws. Brian Farber, Mandjou Keita, and Ryan Pore have led the way for Portland with two goals each.
"They may be one of the teams in our league that have changed the most since last year -- both in terms of personnel and their style of play," Thordarson said.
The Whitecaps won the Cascadia Cup last season, having the best record against Portland and the Seattle Sounders, who joined MLS this year.
Defenders Marco Reda (concussion) and Geordie Lyall (hamstring) along with winger Vincente Arze (hamstring) and striker Marlon James (hamstring) will remain home. Midfielder Kenold Versailles will also miss the trip, despite returning to full training this week.
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