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I'm not sure I can handle all these emotional roller-coaster games crashing down at once. Edmonton, Toronto, Seattle, Portland, all swarming at us...
Nor am I sure the Vancouver Whitecaps can handle it. The team shot its bolt hard on Wednesday, playing a distinct first eleven at every position except midfield. Every core player got at least some playing time. All they got out of that was a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC that could have been so, so much worse, and which now leaves them with heavy legs and dazed expressions as possibly the best team in the West and certainly our most mortal rival comes to town for a game that would be of critical importance for our playoff aspirations even if nobody in this town gave a damn about the Sounders.
I've made the point a few times this year that, athletically, Vancouver seems to be on a different level this year. There haven't been many signs of physical fatigue in any of our games this year, although the mental fatigue has started to creep in. That's a good sign.
The bad sign is that the team now has two straight games where their brains weren't working: at New England and at home to Toronto. Some people will include home to Edmonton and call it three straight. And Seattle is an exceptionally strong team, one coming off a loss but a shedful of wins on top of that. Also, almost needless to say, they didn't have a midweek game. Vancouver's record still looks good, and all around Seattle the Sounders fans are not underestimating us; we probably won't be lucky enough to see Seattle take Vancouver lightly.
Frankly, it would take something special for the Whitecaps to win this one. They'd really have to cut out all the bullshit they've been providing this season, keep their legs strong, and hammer the Sounders in a way they haven't hammered anyone who wasn't a one-win NASL team in the last half hour of a hopeless uphill battle.
Yeah, I'm not feeling it today. Sorry, Cascadia fans.
The big question is whether Martin Rennie should send out his big guns again tonight or save them for next Wednesday. This is, after all, an extremely important game, but Vancouver will need to be at their best to get the required win-or-high-scoring-draw at BMO Field next Wednesday, while still retaining enough energy to beat Toronto again when the win is inevitably canceled for some bogus reason.
You can guess what my logic is. Playing too many of the big guns wouldn't just hurt us on Wednesday, it would hurt us the next weekend away to Portland (a game that's arguably more important, as we're much more likely to be dueling the Timbers for a playoff spot than the Sounders). Vancouver has good depth and some strong players who haven't seem much playing time. Russell Teibert, Omar Salgado, Davide Chiumiento, even Eric Hassli should all be more than ready to start. And a few of our core players, like Lee Young-pyo and Sebastien Le Toux, are such athletic superfreaks that frankly I bet they could play 360 minutes in a week and a half.
Besides, it's not sensible to kill your best players to win a long-shot at the cost of giving up a game you should win. And beating the Sounders is as long a shot as we've seen this year. They are the worst sort of team for Vancouver: a team with a variety of scoring options that's capable of both attacking and defending down the wing. They have loose cannons with individual skill and reliable finishers. Their defense isn't what it could be, but if Vancouver tries to get into a pure shootout their fresher legs should prevail.