Playing their first Cascadia Cup match of the season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-6L-7D) make the short trip down Interstate 5 for their first-ever Major League Soccer meeting with long-time Pacific Northwest rivals Seattle Sounders FC (5W-4L-6D) on Saturday evening.
Seattle's Qwest Field is sure to be at the peak of its pageantry this weekend, as Vancouver and Seattle lock horns in a competitive contest for the first time in nearly three years. A large contingent of travelling Whitecaps FC supporters will also make the short trip to The Emerald City for this long-awaited derby showdown between two clubs that have had a long-standing rivalry for the past 37 years. With Portland Timbers also joining MLS this season, Saturday's match will also count towards the fan-based Cascadia Cup, with the head-to-head competition returning to its original three-club format for the first time since 2008.
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and Seattle Sounders FC from Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington, kicks off at 7:30 p.m. PT and is live on TSN 2 and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to the June 11 contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match.
The prospect of a derby contest is sure to provide plenty of motivation for Tom Soehn's side, as they look to complete a three-match road stand in positive fashion. After a promising performance at Chivas USA last week, Whitecaps FC were humbled by an impressive Real Salt Lake side last weekend, as the Blue and White succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in Utah. It leaves Vancouver without a victory in 13 straight MLS matches and still in search of their first away win in the league. Despite these unwanted milestones, Soehn and his players know they have an opportunity to turn their season around with a big result in Seattle.
The 'Caps will have striker Eric Hassli available for Saturday's trip to Seattle after the Frenchman missed last weekend's RSL defeat following his third red card of the season at Chivas USA. Centre back Michael Boxall (New Zealand) and midfielder Nizar Khalfan (Tanzania) have also returned to the squad after the pair were on international duty last week. Midfielder Terry Dunfield, however, will miss the clash with Sounders FC, as he is on CONCACAF Gold Cup duty with Canada. Local product Kevin Harmse, meanwhile, was waived by the club on Friday.
Soehn is also without goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre (adductor strain), midfielders Philippe Davies (ankle) and John Thorrington (calf), as well as striker Atiba Harris (knee). Right fullback Jonathan Leathers (calf) is listed as questionable.
With a long history and an impressive fan base, Seattle Sounders FC have set new standards for clubs in MLS since joining the league in 2009. Like Whitecaps FC, Seattle transitioned from the second tier of North American professional soccer to the top flight and have done so with some success. Led by experienced MLS head coach Sigi Schmid, Sounders FC reached the MLS Cup playoffs in their first two seasons in the league, while also claiming the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title the past two years. Though results in 2011 have been indifferent, Sounders FC are well positioned to close the gap on frontrunners FC Dallas and LA Galaxy in the MLS Western Conference.
Schmid's side includes many familiar faces to 'Caps fans. Centre back Jeff Parke had a brief spell with Whitecaps FC in 2009, while defender Taylor Graham and striker Roger Levesque dawned Whitecaps FC colours in the friendly versus LA Galaxy at BC Place on November 7, 2007. In 2008, Cuban midfielder Osvaldo Alonso played against the 'Caps as a member of Charleston Battery in the old United Soccer Leagues First Division. More recently, striker O'Brian White found his way to Sounders FC after Vancouver had initially selected the striker from Canadian rivals Toronto FC in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft.
White will miss out on this weekend's game, as the Jamaican-born forward continues his recovery from surgery to treat a blood clot in his left leg. Sounders FC are also without speedy winger Steve Zakuani, who remains sidelined with a fracture to his right leg. Designated Player Alvaro Fernandez (hamstring) is listed as questionable.
Though Saturday's match is the first-ever MLS meeting between Vancouver and Seattle, it will be the 112th time these Pacific Northwest rivals meet in a competitive contest. Both clubs will meet again this season in Vancouver's final match at Empire Field on Saturday, September 24. During the preseason, Whitecaps FC and Sounders FC met at the Cascadia Summit on March 6, with Vancouver defeating Seattle 3-2 in Tukwila, Washington. On Tuesday night, Sounders FC earned a measure of revenge with a 2-0 home win over the 'Caps in the MLS Reserve League.
Between 1974 and 2008, Whitecaps FC and Sounders FC met in no less than 111 competitive meetings. The first 28 matches took place in the old North American Soccer League between 1974 and 1983, with the 'Caps recording 17 wins and 11 defeats versus Sounders FC. This included an even away record of seven wins and seven defeats by the Blue and White in Seattle. Soccer fans in both cities then had to wait until 1994 for the rivalry to be renewed, with Sounders FC claiming the upper hand during 83 meetings in USL-1. Between 1994 and 2008, Sounders FC recorded 43 wins, 25 defeats, and 15 draws versus Whitecaps FC. This included an all-time home record of 24 wins, nine defeats, and seven draws by Seattle versus Vancouver. As a result, Sounders FC lead Whitecaps FC with an overall all-time record of 54 wins, 42 defeats, and 15 draws and an all-time home record of 31 wins, 16 defeats, and seven draws.
Saturday's match will also be Whitecaps FC's first game in this year's Cascadia Cup competition, with 2011 being the first year that Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland are contesting the fan-based trophy as MLS clubs. Founded in 2004, the competition was conceived amongst the supporters of all three clubs, who were then members of USL-1. The Cascadia Cup is awarded to the club that has the best head-to-head record in regular season matches between their Pacific Northwest rivals. This year's competition started on May 14, with Seattle drawing 1-1 at home to Portland in MLS.
Whitecaps FC are the most successful Cascadia Cup side, having won the trophy in 2004, 2005, and 2008. It was in Vancouver's last competitive meeting with Sounders FC that they secured their last Cascadia Cup title during their USL-1 championship-winning season, as Vancouver won 3-2 at Seattle on September 20, 2008. Before joining MLS in 2009, the USL-1 Sounders were cup winners in 2006 and 2007, while Portland won the title in 2009 and 2010 when the trophy was only contested between Whitecaps FC and the Timbers at the North American second division level.
HOME TO PHILLY
Following Saturday's derby clash in Seattle, Whitecaps FC return home for a second meeting of the season with Eastern Conference club Philadelphia Union on Saturday, June 18. Kickoff on Bell Pitch at Empire Field is set for 7 p.m. PT. Individual match tickets start at $20, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277). Visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets for more information on individual match tickets for the club's inaugural MLS season.
Whitecaps FC's home match versus Philadelphia Union can also be seen live on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific and Bell mobile devices at 7 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to the June 18 contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin immediately following the match.
Whitecaps FC fans also have the option of purchasing two exciting new match packs. Starting at just $159, the match pack options - GOING HOLLYWOOD and LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR? - both include the Manchester City FC friendly match, valued at $60, and four coveted MLS matches. Aside from season tickets, which also include the Manchester City game, match packs are currently the only way to secure a ticket to the July 18 international friendly. For additional information on match packs, visit whitecapsfc.com/matchpacks.