VANCOUVER, BC - Even though the Whitecaps' annual slump has sent them spiraling out of playoff contention, the club still find themselves in a position to still win some silverware this season. While it is increasingly unlikely that the Whitecaps will mount a challenge for the MLS Cup this year, they can still salvage the season by bringing the Cascadia Cup back to Vancouver for the first time since the club entered MLS in 2011. To do this, however, the Caps will have to earn maximum points from their remaining two Cascadia matches versus Portland and Seattle and they can add to their account by defeating the Portland Timbers this Sunday afternoon.
The Whitecaps and Timbers have already met twice this year, and neither side has been able to claim maximum points from either of those matches. The Timbers have not won on the road in eight consecutive tries, and Vancouver, who typically have played well and won regularly at BC Place, will look to extend this road losing streak for Portland. In order to do this, the Whitecaps will have to win their first match at home since they defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 on August 10th.
The Whitecaps themselves have only won twice since the teams played to a 1-1 draw in the Rose City back on August 4th. Portland has fared slightly better having won four league matches during this time and currently sit third in the MLS Western Conference with 49 points. Despite beating the Montreal Impact 3-0 at Stade Saputo two weeks ago, the Whitecaps still find themselves outside of playoff contention with 41 points, which is four points adrift of the Colorado Rapids, who currently occupy the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot. The Whitecaps have their work cut out for them this Sunday as the Timbers have not lost to Vancouver in their last seven meetings in all competitions.
To defeat the Timbers Vancouver will have to rediscover the form that, at one point this season, propelled them as high as second place in the Western Conference. Forwards Kenny Miller and Camilo Sanvezzo, who have combined for 24 of the Whitecaps' 42 goals, are obviously the key men in Martin Rennie's attack. Miller, who left the Impact match early with a right abductor injury, is listed as doubtful for Sunday's match, but if he is close to being fit then he likely will play.
What can we expect to see on Sunday? We will see the usual intense derby atmosphere and the Whitecaps will want to take advantage of the passionate home support to score early in the game. Portland will no doubt have taken note of the circumstances of the Whitecaps' 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake "reserve" team last weekend. Vancouver will have to be vigilant not to concede another early goal because the Timber's brand of possession football and ability to protect leads will make it very difficult for the Caps to get back into the game should they fall behind.
Given the Whitecaps' abysmal form of late and their inability to "show up" for big matches, I suspect the disappointing trend will continue for Vancouver. Despite my less than positive prediction for Sunday's match I remain hopeful that the team will finally find a way to get out of their slump and nothing would be more pleasing to myself, and the rest of the Faithful, than a defeat of our Cascadia brethren.
Predicted score: Whitecaps FC 1 - 2 Portland Timbers FC
Predicted Starting XI: Ousted * Harvey * DeMerit * Mitchell * Lee * Davidson * Koffie * Reo-Coker * Camilo * Miller * Teibert
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