Ben Fisk Seattle Sounders FC Academy U-18
Joseph Armand

Whitecaps FC U-23 prepare for a weekend of rivalry matches

Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 (1W-0L-0D) face a thrilling Mother’s Day weekend as they embark on a duo of derby matches in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL). Friday night will see a 7:30 p.m. start at Swangard Stadium for the second straight week, as the ‘Caps face off against the newly developed Sounders FC U-23, which carries heavy weight in the minds of fans and players alike. Following the Friday night clash, Vancouver will travel to meet Victoria Highlanders FC for a Mother’s Day match at 5 p.m. at Royal Athletic Park on Sunday.

While Sounders FC U-23 have yet to face Vancouver head-to-head in their current incarnation, the same cannot be said for the Highlanders. The two British Columbia sides have a history of tight affairs in the PDL stretching back to 2009, with a 3W-2L-2D record in favour of the ‘Caps. Two of those wins came from home matches last year, with a 2-1 victory at Empire field on June 5, 2011, followed by a 3-1 win at Minoru Oval Park in Richmond on Canada Day, July 1, 2011.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23

The ‘Caps are currently riding high after winning their home opener 3-0 against defending PDL champions Kitsap Pumas. Moving on from their first match, this weekend should prove to be a test of strength against both Victoria and Seattle, as they will each be fired up to open their PDL campaigns against the Blue and White.

Vancouver boasted a quartet in the attacking third that displayed great leadership and confidence in their opening match. Ben Fisk proved to be a handful with a flurry of threatening passes and shots, while Yassin Essa was vital with two assists. At the forefront last week was striker Carlos Marquez, with two goals and one assist already to his name he should be one to watch this season.

Vancouver will also look to their MLS roster players for added confidence and leadership for their young core.

Sounders FC U-23

Formerly Tacoma Tide, the club rebranded this year as they enterted into partnership with MLS club Seattle Sounders FC. The new side have wasted no time in bolstering their lineup, with a variety of young talent from the university system. The Rave Green have recently signed five players out of the University of Washington Huskies lineup that finished second in the Pac-12 conference last season behind the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Sounders FC U-23 head coach Darren Sawatsky is confident that the players can take their chemistry and apply it effectively to the PDL competition in their debut season.

Much like their MLS counterparts, Sounders FC U-23 and Vancouver Whitecaps FC-U23 are entering into their own junior version of the hotly contested Cascadia Cup. Friday night will kick off the less-than-friendly competition, as the Sounders organization will make a return to the historic Cascadia battleground of Swangard Stadium and fight for valuable head-to-head points. Sounders FC will then have to wait until June 2 until they can take on the third Cascadia side, Portland Timbers U-23.

Victoria Highlanders FC

The Highlanders will go into Sunday’s match under the experienced guidance of head coach Ian Bridge, who has been with the club for two seasons and recently extended his contract for two more years. Bridge took his side to the first round of PDL playoffs last season until it was cut short by Fresno Fuego.

Returning in attack this season is Jordan Hughes following a prolific season last year. In 15 matches played the striker managed six goals, leading the team in scoring.

This match will be the first in a new supporters driven cup for local PDL sides, the “Juan de Fuca Plate”, as Whitecaps FC battle fellow PDL provincial rivals Highlanders FC and Fraser Valley Mariners for B.C. bragging rights. This trophy will be awarded to the team with the most total points in head-to-head matches between the three clubs. The new cup is organized by the Vancouver Southsiders and Victoria's Lake Side Buoys supporters groups, as fans of all teams hope to bring more bring more interest in local soccer. Bragging rights will be at stake as the competitiveness will likely increase, which makes Sunday’s outcome all the more intriguing.