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Match Preview: Playoff Push at Providence Park

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The dust has settled. The Vancouver Whitecaps will play the Portland Timbers in the biggest Cascadia derby of the year (so far).

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Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

There was reason to cheer for Portland on Thursday night. Sporting Kansas City were the 6th and lowest seed in the West, meaning they would've played FC Dallas had they won at Providence Park, leaving the Vancouver Whitecaps up against the Seattle Sounders: the lime-green equivalent of the Caps’ Achilles heel this season. Now the Caps have a slightly less potent Cascadia rival to deal with and a familiar trip down the I-5 on Sunday (or a flick of the remote to TSN at 2pm for those feeling less adventurous).

For Whitecaps fans who watched the whole Sporting vs Timbers contest on Thursday, there was more to be pleased about than just the excitement on display (and boy, it was one for the ages).

The Timbers played 120 minutes of football, and then went through a gruelling, physics-defying 11-man shootout. Now they’ve got to regroup in two days, with two night’s sleep (assuming no one went to bed early – or possibly at all – after that historic win).

With an entire week to train and recover, the Whitecaps won’t have to worry about fatigue. In fact, they'll be able to welcome back a few more key players. Nicolas Mezquida made the bench last week and could be ready to start, Mauro Rosales is fit again, and Pedro Morales is almost back to full training.

For Portland, the injury report is less dire, but they still have plenty to keep in mind. All of their starting eleven (except for Lucas Melano, who played 85') played more than 90 minutes. As if that wasn’t taxing enough, Liam Ridgewell, Rodney Wallace, George Fochive and Diego Valeri all picked up yellow cards, so if they get booked on Sunday, they’ll be suspended for the second leg at BC Place.

Realistically, the Vancouver Whitecaps should be happy to pick up a draw at Providence Park. The Portland Timbers will come out flying after their mid-week win, and might even get an early goal. If the Caps want a result in this game, they will likely get it in the second half. Fatigue will set in no matter how loud the Timbers Army becomes.

It’s almost a cliché at this point, but Kekuta Manneh’s (and possibly, hopefully, even Darren Mattocks’) speed could be the key to opening up tired Timber legs late-on and snatching a goal or two. Whatever happens, you won't want to miss it. The game kicks off at 2pm on Sunday on TSN. Official viewing party is at The Pint. Tickets for the home leg next Sunday are available and according to the seating map, the tarps are coming off. I REPEAT, THE TARPS ARE COMING OFF.

Prediction: An early goal for Lucas Melano is cancelled out by a late bit of Manneh brilliance: 1-1