This weekend's clash between the Timbers and Whitecaps will be the Blue & White's first derby match of the 2015 season, their first true test in a match with high tension, and the first chance for many of our new faces to experience an MLS Clasico.
There are several interesting storylines going in to this weekend. Coming of a high with six points out of the last two games (on the road!), the Whitecaps squad going into tomorrow's game will be a little more lean than usual due to a series of injuries (Sam Adekugbe and Mauro Rosales), call-ups (Russell Teibert, Darren Mattocks and Christian Dean) and suspensions (Kekuta Manneh and Diego Rodriguez). On this point at least, the playing field is somewhat even as the Timbers will also be missing some of their big names including Diego Valeri, Will Johnson, Ben Zemanski and Jake Jewsbury. This will be a true test for the depth of this Whitecaps team and, perhaps more importantly, an opportunity for some players to play themselves into the regular squad rotation.
Having scored in three consecutive games, and being the only Whitecap to have found the back of the net so far in the season, the Whitecaps know that Octavio Rivero can score. The bigger question is when will the Uruguayan golden boy receive some support from his teammates? Pedro Morales has been under severe scrutiny due to his "below par" performances, while such criticism can be argued the truth is that Carl Robinson (and everyone else in Whitecaps Land) is expecting the Chilean, along with the rest of the squad, to start contributing with actual goals.
With Diego Rodriguez
ridiculously suspended for two games due to the "Nutgate" incident with Aurelien Collin, Carl Robinson will need to revert to the Pa Modou Kah - Kendall Waston pairing in the heart of defence. This tandem will certainly match the physical potency of Fanendo Adi , but will that be enough to shut down the hulking striker?
Having his squad depleted is not an impediment for Carl Robinson to still field a strong lineup although some important questions still linger. Would you play with Hurtado and Mezquida on the wings? How about Kianz Froese? Can the youngster squeak into the staring XI? Will Robert Easrnshaw make his debut in a Whitecaps kit?
The Whitecaps lost their season opener against Toronto FC and followed that with two road wins. If the Blue and White want to remain in a top spot in the Western conference it is imperative for them to get full points more often than not at home. There's no better opportunity to start taking care of business at home than in a derby against our hated rivals from Lower Cascadia.
Who: The Vancouver Whitecaps v. Portland Timbers
Where: BC Place
When: Saturday, March 28 at 5pm
What: The first step to domination. Cascadia Domination, that is.