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Holy Crap It's Whitecaps Game Day! Men v. Portland, 4:00 PM PST

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Don't be fooled by people who think they invented soccer. This isn't the first time the Timbers and Whitecaps have squared off, and it's far from the most meaningful. That doesn't make it irrelevant, though. (Benjamin Massey/Eighty Six Forever)
Don't be fooled by people who think they invented soccer. This isn't the first time the Timbers and Whitecaps have squared off, and it's far from the most meaningful. That doesn't make it irrelevant, though. (Benjamin Massey/Eighty Six Forever)
PORTLAND TIMBERS
 
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC
(0-0-0, 9th West)
vs.
(0-0-0, 1st West)
Leading Scorer: what, are you new here? (0)
 
Leading Scorer: you even looked? (0)
Opponents' Blog: Stumptown Footy
4:00 PM PDT, Starfire Sports Complex, Tukwila, WA
Live on whitecapsfc.com

Hey, guys. Welcome to the Vancouver Whitecaps game day thread. Been a long time. Last time you would have seen one of these was October 17, 2010 for a playoff game against Puerto Rico that... well, it's over now.

I realize that the Whitecaps have played loads of friendly matches before today that I didn't bother writing anything up for. There's a simple reason for that: who cares? Taking on Chivas USA in the middle of the Arizona cacti isn't exactly compelling viewing even if we could view it, which we couldn't. This is different. This is the Portland Timbers, which means the game has a certain spice no matter how meaningless the stakes. This is one of our last chances to tune up before the regular season. And this is a game people can actually watch: the three teams will be carrying a live feed on their respective websites and sales for the matches at the Starfire Sports Complex have been brisk.

The Whitecaps aren't playing meaningful games; not yet. But they're games that will matter to us all the same. There are no points on the line and nothing at stake beyond a bit of bragging, but that doesn't mean I don't want to beat the Timbers' little green pants off.

Come back with me to a different day in October. Especially you, Portland fans. The day is October 10, 2010: the last time the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers drew swords against each other. At Harry A. Merlo Field in Portland, Oregon, the Timbers needed a two-goal win to overcome their aggregate deficit and take the series to extra time. They didn't get it. The Whitecaps held on and advanced to the next round while Portland slunk home with their tail between their legs: not that they had far to slink, for they had endured the loss in their home town.

Since then, much has changed. The twin titans of the series were Gershon Koffie for Vancouver and Ryan Pore for Portland: they still remain, but their teams? Their logos? Their stadia? Their uniforms?

I'm sure it'll all be the same in the stands, though. This isn't properly a Cascadia Cup match, of course, but the rivalry is still there and one wonders what new fans and new players will think of veteran Southsiders and Timbers Army types hurling imprecations at the opposing team while still behaving without a trace of stereotypical hooliganism around each other. I admit that I laughed a bit at the Timbers Army "impress[ing . . .] the importance of behavior this weekend" when from my experience the worst that could be said about the Timbers Army is that they don't take penalties very well.

Then I think about it. There were usually only a few dozen people standing in the south stands even in the biggest matches last year, but the Vancouver Southsiders are currently over two hundred paid members for the 2011 season. When I look at it that way, well, who the hell are those people? Is one of them an idiot who dreamed of being a Chelsea Headhunter when he grew up and thinks we're the next-best thing?

Of course I expect they're all much like me: decent folks who just happen to enjoy jumping up and down and chanting their hearts out for their favourite team. I expect that Terry Dunfield will be able to move the ball almost as effectively against MLS defenses as he did against USSF D2 ones. I expect that Eric Hassli might not be the best scorer in the league but he'll be able to pile in some goals coming over from Switzerland. I expect that we'll at least get a little flair out of Omar Salgado before we (or rather the league) sells him across the ocean. I expect lots of things in Major League Soccer, but I don't really know. Of all the major soccer leagues in the world, MLS is by far the most idiosyncratic both in terms of rules, in terms of its support, and in terms of its style of play. I've watched a fair bit of MLS over the last five years but I can't clap my hands together and say "yes, I understand this league perfectly."

I expect all these things, but maybe I shouldn't know what to expect. This is a whole different world.

This is part of the reason I'm looking forward to this game, part of the reason I'm writing this game day thread, and part of the reason why I'm making the trip down to Seattle in the first place. I want to know what to expect. I want to see the Whitecaps face down an MLS opponent, even if it is just the Timbers and Sounders and even if this is just preseason. I want to see if I know anything or if Dunfield is a step slow, the fans are vicious rioters, and O'Brian White is suddenly Gerd Muller.

I guess we'll be finding out.

News and Notes:

  • The Supporters Summit itself, as in the summit of supporters, runs from noon to 1 PM at the Starfire Sports Complex where representative of the Southsiders, the Timbers Army, and the Emerald City Supporters will sit at a table and do God knows what. From 1 PM to 2 PM, head coaches Teitur Thordarson, Sigi Schmid, and John Spencer will be on hand fielding questions from an open audience.
  • Eric Hassli hasn't even gotten a work permit, passed a physical, or joined the Whitecaps team yet so no, he won't appear in this tournament. Sorry. Kevin Harmse, though, may appear.
  • In spite of his troublesome ankle injury, goalkeeper Joe Cannon is with the taem in Seattle, though it would be a surprise if he started. Trialists Davide Chiumiento (ankle) and Mouloud Akloul (also ankle), as well as draft pick Michael Nanchoff (groin) aren't making the trip.
  • The Portland Timbers are definitely without forwards Bright Dike (out for the season with a torn right Achilles tendon) and Darlington Nagbe (sports hernia).
  • In Friday evening's match against the Seattle Sounders, the Timbers won 2-0 on goals from trialist Jorge Perlaza and veteran Kenny Cooper. Their starting lineup of Troy Perkins, Kevin Goldthwaite, Eric Brunner, Steve Purdy, Rodney Wallace, Sal Zizzo, Peter Lowry, Jeremy Hall, Jack Jewsbury, Cooper, and Perlaza lasted seventy-five minutes before they started making substitutions. Jewsbury served as captain. In short, Portland took the match seriously and it showed in the result. Of course, you have to expect that the Whitecaps will see much more of the reserve squad this afternoon.
  • As mentioned, the game is being streamed on the websites of all three clubs involved in the Supporters' Summit. So even if you're not in Seattle, you have no excuse not to watch two mortal rivals jog out and try to get in shape.