PORTLAND, OR – One Cascadia rival down, one to go.
After knocking off defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC face league-leading Portland Timbers on Saturday in a matinee affair at Providence Park.
KICKOFF: 1 p.m. PT | TV: CTV & TSN | RADIO: TSN 1410
Here’s everything you need to know about the match.
Derby double? The ‘Caps are coming off an emotional 2-1 win over Seattle Sounders FC, last year’s MLS Cup champions. Now, they’re looking to increase their early lead atop the Cascadia Cup standings against Portland, who of course won the MLS Cup in 2015. There never seems to be any shortage of drama in these Cascadia derbies – and I wouldn’t expect Saturday to be any different.
High-flying Timbers: As Carl Robinson said this week, the Timbers have been “the best team” in MLS to start 2017. The numbers don’t lie. They’re currently tied for the top spot in MLS with 13 points from seven matches, and have scored a whopping 16 goals in that span. On Saturday, however, they will be without striker Fanendo Adi (suspension). Can the ‘Caps take advantage?
On the road again: Saturday’s match kicks off an important four-match road trip for Whitecaps FC, who will also face Montreal Impact, Colorado Rapids, and Houston Dynamo. It’s probably the toughest part of Vancouver’s schedule – and they’d love nothing more than to start it off with a positive result. “Teams that finish at the top of the table are usually the teams that are able to win five, six, seven games on the road and take care of home business,” Robinson said this week.
Matias Laba (DM) vs. Diego Valeri (AM): This is always a fun one. Diego Valeri is Portland’s star Argentine attacking midfielder, an early candidate for league MVP with five goals and three assists in seven matches, and Matias Laba is Vancouver’s star defensive midfielder, who has led MLS in tackles since joining the league. This matchup might just be where the game is won or lost.
Fredy Montero (FWD) vs. Liam Ridgewell (CB): With three goals in his last three games, Fredy Montero appears to be catching fire for the ‘Caps. And the scary thing, at least for opposing teams, is that he’s still working up to full fitness. “There’s still a lot more to come from Fredy,” Robinson said. “I think he’ll be first to admit he’s still trying to get his peak fitness. And I can’t wait to have a fit Fredy Montero, because he does exactly what it says on the tin.” Montero has four goals and one assist in five career MLS regular season appearances vs. the Timbers. On Saturday, he’ll likely be matched up against Timbers captain and former English Premier League centre back Liam Ridgewell, who has missed the last six matches with a foot injury. Both Montero and Ridgewell have played at the highest level. Who comes out on top this weekend?
“It’s well known that it’s a fantastic environment to play in MLS. The fans are crazy. Crazy in a good way. They get behind the team. They’re there an hour before the game and they probably stay an hour after the game. They never stop singing. It’s a hostile environment. But it’s an environment that some players and clubs like to go and enjoy. We’ve got to handle it, because it’s going to be tough, but we’ll be prepared.” – Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson