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Two points ahead of FC Dallas, barely clinging to life in the Cascadia Cup, the Vancouver Whitecaps don't have to win this afternoon against the Sounders. But it would sure solve a lot of problems.
When the Vancouver Whitecaps take on the Seattle Sounders this afternoon on Bell Pitch at BC Place (4 PM PDT, TSN), they do not face a must-win. Like the Colorado Rapids match last week it's a win-would-be-very-nice game, but not a must-win. The Sounders are a good team, far enough ahead that while it's mathematically possible for the Whitecaps to catch them it's only just, and FC Dallas has a very tricky away game at Supporters Shield winners-presumptive San Jose Earthquakes. Moreover, on a level I actually want Seattle to gain points. If they move to third in the west and Real Salt Lake drops to fourth, it gives the Whitecaps a slight advantage: their last regular season match is at Salt Lake, meaning they wouldn't even need to move for their first-round playoff game.
But it's Seattle and I know nobody is really thinking that way.
First, the Whitecaps are technically still alive for the Cascadia Cup. If Vancouver kills Seattle in this game (like, 3-0, 4-1), kills Portland by a similar score when they come to visit, and Seattle beats Portland by any score on October 7, the Whitecaps get the trophy. "Mathematically still alive" is the best kind of "still alive"! (We could also narrowly win one of the Seattle/Portland games and get a record win in the other, like Vancouver 1-0 Seattle and Vancouver 5-0 Portland, but that's even less likely.)
Second, if Vancouver beats Seattle, the Sounders are out of the Cascadia Cup race. All civilized soccer fans are enthusiastically pro-ACES so that, alone, would make the world a better place.
Third, if Vancouver beats Seattle that gives the Whitecaps a five-point advantage on Dallas, pending the outcome of Earthquakes - FUD. Anything better for Dallas than a draw would be one of the upsets of the season, and a four-point margin with three games to go over a team that's averaging 1.2 points per game is starting to look positively secure. I realize the Whitecaps have had secure positions before, but in this instance they'd have fewer games to fuck it up.
Fourth, if Vancouver beats Seattle, it means Vancouver beats Seattle. That is its own reward.
The obligatory bad news? Dane Richards is out; suspended through yellow card accumulation. Russell Teibert is listed as "probable" with a quad injury, but it's probably enough to strike him from the starting lineup and leaves our wing situation looking less-than-ideal. This is when you start seeing guys like Atiba Harris play, and at that point you may as well give yourself a red card and start bunkering all to hell and gone.
We can hope that injuries to Sounders players like Mauro Rosales (probable; quad) and Christian Tiffert (probable; ankle) are enough to hurt Seattle, but I doubt it. Hell, they've gotten this far without a damned thing from Tiffert, why not go a bit further?
We can also hope that Martin Rennie makes the right adjustments. Post-game after Colorado, Rennie talked about how the team needs to be more aggressive when defending a lead, attacking the ball and looking for another goal, and it was all I could do not to leap up and start fistpumping. If he and the team practice that preaching, it'll hopefully be enough that if the Whitecaps do go in front they can cling onto it.
So that's hope. Hope, as we know, can be a dangerous thing, can drive a man insane. But there's reason to have it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to chew my fingers off during an awful, disappointing 2-1 loss we'll never really have been in.