The Vancouver Whitecaps return to BC Place to clash against a red-hot Seattle Sounders squad in what will effectively start the ‘Caps' defense of their Cascadia Cup title.
The Whitecaps come into the match unbeaten in their last four MLS contests, including back-to-back wins against San Jose and Columbus. The Sounders are currently on top of the Western Conference and riding a run of play that has seen them take full points in six out of their last seven matches.
Vancouver come from a bye week after being eliminated by Toronto FC in the Voyageurs Cup so it is expected that Carl Robinson will field his best XI with the exception of Steven Beitashour, who is in the Iran national team pre- World Cup camp, and Darren Mattocks, who is still on the mend from the hamstring injury that he got in the game versus San Jose.
The Sounders also have some absences as it has been confirmed that Designated Player Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin will be on the United States' final World Cup roster. Brad Evans was recently cut from that squad and his availability for Saturday's game is still in doubt along with attacker Lamar Neagle, who has been battling an injury throughout the week.
Regardless of who is on the field, the battles between Vancouver and Seattle are always spirited and hard-fought. This Saturday will be no exception. The game has been sold out for weeks, and there is expected to be a large contingent of Seattle supporters at BC Place to enhance the atmosphere even more.
There are a few players to keep an eye on:
Nigel Reo-Coker: A lot of speculation has been surrounding the Englishman as of late, and rumour has it that this might be his last game as a Whitecap. Whether that rumor has merit or not, it will be the first time that Nigel has first team minutes in an MLS match since his now-infamous "bike rack incident" so it will be interesting to see if his form starts to return even playing in the right back position which is not his favoured spot on the field.
Matias Laba: Following the magnificent game that the Argentinean had in Columbus a couple of weeks ago, the young Designated Player will be crucial once more to reduce service to the always dangerous Obafemi Martins.
Osvaldo Alonso: This match will feature two of the best defensive midfielders in the league today. Despite not playing directly against each other, I am very interested to see which midfielder will have a bigger impact on the game.
Obafemi Martins: The former Nigeria international has found his form. He is an extremely strong player who is able to position himself in the right places and has the consistent ability to finish the chances that are present to him. The absence of Dempsey may impact his performance, but Vancouver's defensive line has to be focused in order to minimize the space given to Martins.
With a Saturday featuring the Champions League final followed by a Cascadia Clasico between Vancouver and Seattle, it is a good day to be a football supporter in Vancouver.