VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC will play their first Cascadia match of the season on Saturday when they host first-place Seattle Sounders FC at BC Place.
KICKOFF: 4 p.m. PT TV: TSN 2 RADIO: TEAM 1410 MOBILE: bell.ca/mobiletv ONLINE: TSN GO
Here are three storylines to get you set for the match.
Test of depth
Between the two teams, there could be up to four players unavailable on Saturday due to World Cup camps. Seattle will be missing midfielder/striker Clint Dempsey and right back DeAndre Yedlin, who are each away with the U.S. men’s national team. The status of midfielder Brad Evans, who was at the U.S. camp but was left off their 23-man roster announced on Thursday, is unclear at this point.
Meanwhile, the 'Caps are without right back Steven Beitashour, one of 28 players participating in Iran’s World Cup camp. Canadian midfielder Bryce Alderson is also away with international duty until the end of May.
For Whitecaps FC, the most likely replacement is Nigel Reo-Coker – back-up right back Ethen Sampson is out with a knee injury. The Englishman started both of Vancouver’s matches in the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal and drew praise from the coaching staff for his performance in the 120-minute second leg.
“He’s done really well,” assistant coach Martyn Pert told reporters early this week. “The first game he started to really get into it towards the end and then the 120 minutes he was very solid. We showed some clips of him defending one v. one against the wide players and forcing them out. Nigel is a competitive person. He’s out there fighting in training and he does the same when he goes into the game.”
Speaking of World Cup camps, many were surprised by the omission of Sounders FC striker Obafemi Martins from Nigeria’s squad. Martins has been on a tear this season, recording five goals and a league-high six assists.
“He gets in great spots, he drops in, but he also has the speed to go in behind. And obviously he can finish like you saw last week,” Whitecaps FC defender Jordan Harvey said of Martins’ goal against San Jose Earthquakes. “He’ll be one of the main targets to watch.”
The entire Sounders FC squad has been in form, winning six of their last seven outings. But so have the 'Caps, who are undefeated in four MLS matches and have won two straight.
Saturday’s contest has all the makings of another classic Cascadia derby.
First to four
Whitecaps FC broke the three-way deadlock and became the most prolific club in the supporters-created Cascadia Cup when they clinched their fourth title last season.
The 'Caps finished with a 2W-1L-3D record against Seattle and Portland in 2013. Fans won’t soon forget Vancouver’s 2-0 victory over Seattle in July, their first win over a Cascadia rival in MLS. And they definitely won’t forget the historic 4-1 win in Seattle that saw rookie Kekuta Manneh become the youngest player in MLS history to record a hat-trick.
It’s a new year now, but as Reo-Coker said this week, the 'Caps want to make sure they “keep the Cup here.” Vancouver’s defence of the Cascadia Cup starts on Saturday at BC Place.
It’s not too late to participate in the best sporting experience in Vancouver. Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets, and a youth soccer half-season ticket. Single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.