VANCOUVER, BC – After back-to-back wins, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will look to make it three in a row on Friday night when they visit rival Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field.
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Since three just wouldn’t cut it, here are five storylines to get you set for the match.
Over the last few weeks, Carl Robinson has said the ‘Caps are approaching their final games as “Cup Finals.” Well, Friday’s match is just that.
The winner of this much-anticipated derby will be crowned 2014 Cascadia Cup champions – Seattle would also lift the trophy with a draw.
One year ago Thursday, Whitecaps FC went into CenturyLink Field and left with three points after a historic 4-1 victory. As it turned out, that win also clinched Vancouver’s fourth Cascadia Cup title, making them the most successful club in tournament history.
Can they make it five on Friday?
“Obviously this is a big occasion because we’re not only playing for ourselves and our season and fighting for a playoff spot, we’re fighting for our fans as well,” Russell Teibert said this week.
SHOW ME THE MANNEH
It’s hard to talk about that 4-1 victory one year ago without mentioning Kekuta Manneh. The young Gambian opened the scoring with three straight goals, becoming the youngest player to record a hat-trick in MLS history.
Manneh, now 19, has impressed as a substitute in recent weeks and could get the start on Friday with Sebastian Fernandez suspended due to caution accumulation.
As a reporter asked on Wednesday, “can the kid catch lightning in a bottle one year later?”
“We’ll see,” Robinson said. “All signs show me that he’s ready. If he gets the opportunity to go in on Friday, hopefully he might be exactly the same. I doubt it, but you never know. He’s shown a lot of confidence in training this week. He and a number of other players are pushing for that start.”
If the Cascadia Cup wasn’t enough to get you jacked, Friday’s match also has major playoff implications.
The 'Caps enter the match two points back of Portland for the final playoff spot. They have a game in hand, however, meaning they still control their own destiny with three matches to go.
Sounders FC, meanwhile, have already clinched a playoff berth, but they have their sights set on the MLS Supporters’ Shield.
As it stands, Seattle and LA Galaxy both have 60 points, which is eight more points than the next closest team, but the Sounders hold the tiebreaker with a league-high 19 wins.
One player who’s all too familiar with playing at CenturyLink Field is ‘Caps midfielder Mauro Rosales, who spent his first three seasons in MLS with Seattle before getting dealt to Chivas USA late last year.
Rosales, who is coming off arguably his best match in a Whitecaps FC uniform, established himself as one of the league’s top playmakers in Seattle, racking up a total of 12 goals and 34 assists over three seasons.
Friday’s match will mark the first time he’s played in Seattle since getting traded.
“Now I’m representing Vancouver Whitecaps FC and in the position we’re in, we know how important this game is for everybody – not just for me facing my ex club – but for everybody to be ready for this last push of the season,” Rosales said. “I’m just focusing on doing my best.”
DEMPSEY AND MARTINS
For Vancouver to come away with a result on Friday, they’ll have to find a way to contain the attacking duo of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins – something many teams have struggled to do this season.
Martins, who many consider to be a league MVP candidate, has a team-high 17 goals and 10 assists – only Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan have more points this season. And Dempsey isn’t far behind with 14 goals and nine assists.
The two players enter Friday’s contest in top form, racking up a combined six goals and two assists over the last two games alone.
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