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The Seattle Sounders have the same number of points as the Whitecaps but in two fewer games. They also have a superior goal differential. Of course, they haven't had the same tough schedule as the Whitecaps have recently, but there have been some good games in there and a 4-0 home win over the LA Galaxy certainly stands out. They are a good team, almost certainly stronger best-on-best than the Whitecaps, and playing with one of the stronger home field advantages in the league.
So the Whitecaps are in tough. I wouldn't go so far as Sounder at Heart did when they said there are "no excuses [for the Sounders] not to dominate" but there's no doubt that, despite fairly equal records, Seattle has the advantage.
Yes, Barry Robson is suspended. I've heard that the Whitecaps were told on Thursday, appealed, and had the appeal denied on Friday. Fair enough if true; that makes MLS still incredibly incompetent but less brazenly incompetent then if this morning's announcement was the first anybody had heard of it. At least Martin Rennie would have had some time to prepare and consider his lineup, even if MLS is once again holding back information from their fans and press while treating their own league matches as an afterthought for absolutely no reason.
And yes, Jay DeMerit is out, or at least he should be. He's listed as questionable but his concussion symptoms prevented him from taking a major role in training this week and one hopes Martin Rennie resists the urge to rush his captain back, even with Martin Bonjour suspended for yellow card accumulation. (Yes, Martin Bonjour is out. In case that wasn't implied.)
It gets better. Darren Mattocks and Dane Richards aren't out, but they might be tired: problems with their flight coming back from their international friendly on Wednesday means they had to fly straight into Seattle and endured a very tough travel schedule. DeMerit had that same problem after the MLS All-Star Game and we all recall how well he played the next night. It doesn't help that the Sounders took the international break off, meaning their players will be fresher
As we can see, the Whitecaps have their share of problems this afternoon. Seattle isn't totally immune: bit player David Estrada is out with a foot injury and Steve Zakuani, while no longer on the injured list, is only questionably fit. Woo hoo.
There's some truth to the old saying that Cascadia matches can bring out the best in teams. The Whitecaps only played a single dud Cascadia match last year (home to Portland) despite being the worst team in the league; they gave Seattle everything they could handle on two occasions and managed a draw and a loss with a skill disparity that should have resulted in them getting pummeled. But if that's the case then Seattle's best certainly looks better then Vancouver's best. But then again have we seen Vancouver's best? Kenny Miller still needs to figure out what an MLS goal looks like but he's also somebody used to rising to big occasions. Things like that might somehow count in Vancouver's favour if they're lucky.
If they're lucky. Bloody hell, the Sounders are going to win this one, aren't they?