VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
September 9th, 4pm at BC Place (TSN, MLS Live)
Vancouver: 48pts (15W-10L-3D, 1st in Western Conference, 1st Overall)
Seattle: 42pts (13W-13L-3D, 4th in Western Conference, 8th Overall)
Don't panic - I'm not going to write this preview to the tune of an obscure Canadian song from the '90s. I have to assume that's why I've been banished from preview duty for the past three months. Message received, lesson learned. Let's get into the good stuff, shall we?
I'm sure you've had the same question burning at the front of your brain ever since you realized this game was approaching, so let's get it out of the way right off the bat: what hashtag will we use to succeed #Ca5cadia? I vote for #C6scadia, recognizing the inconsistency of only replacing the letter "a" once. Please feel free to debate this in the comments section.
Yes, that's how arrogantly, aggressively confident I am of Vancouver pulling out a win on Saturday. I choose this mentality and approach to counter the appalling (though not unexpected, sadly) silent treatment being given to the 'Caps by the league's media wing. Go listen to the most recent episode of Extra Time Radio and note the distinct lack of mentions of Vancouver in discussions about both the Supporters' Shield race (of which the 'Caps are currently leading) and the [expletive] match the 'Caps are playing in this weekend. "Ooh, Seattle this, Seattle that, blah blah Osvaldo Alonso is the Cuban-American reincarnation of Didier Deschamps!" Disgusting. Consider this preview an emphatic counter-balance.
(I'm getting banned from preview duty permanently after this, aren't I?)
Wednesday's result was fantastic for two reasons: one, Vancouver earned a vital three points in their CONCACAF Champions League group, which makes winning the group(!) a realistic possibility; and two, the personnel that got the win on Wednesday can now be swapped out for the traditional starters who will be at full fitness and ready to tear up Seattle. The only bonafide starters to see the pitch against C.D. Olimpia were Kendall Waston and Matias Laba (no disrespect to Nicolas Mezquida), both of whom should have few issues going a full ninety minutes twice in a week. Slotting in against Seattle, fully ready to go, will be Jordan Harvey, Pa Modou Kah (or Tim Parker), Steven Beitashour, Gershon Koffie (or Russell Teibert), Cristian Techera, Kekuta Manneh and Octavio Rivero and I'm sorry I need a new keyboard after drooling excessively at the amount of beef Robbo didn't put on the field. That's championship-team-calibre depth, which, by the way, did you know Vancouver won the Canadian Championship this year and is currently leading the Supporters' Shield race? Hm. Interesting.
Getting back to the personnel, Vancouver has the luxury of trotting out a rested, first-choice team ready to crack skulls and break ankles (or, y'know, score goals, whichever) in defense of the Cascadia Cup. Seattle is less fortunate, having lost prized defensive acquisition Roman Torres for the season. It's a blow that will likely push Brad Evans from midfield back into central defense alongside confirmed freak of nature Zach Scott. It's certainly not the worst thing in the world to happen for Seattle since Evans has Teibert-esque levels of positional versatility and, if you believe the data, is actually better for the Sounders in central defense. Speaking of things that make Seattle better, Osvaldo Alonso will likely be back, so that's not going to be fun for anyone not wearing
puke rave green. Love him or hate him (I'll take the latter), Alonso is inarguably the linchpin that holds Seattle's midfield and, thus, the entire team together. Vancouver would do well to keep the game to the edges of the pitch and let their wingers wreak havoc. Y'know, like they've been doing pretty much all season long to great effect. Oh, and Clint Dempsey is a "probably" for a full ninety-minute performance on the weekend but since he's been hot garbage for a while now, that's not exactly a concern. Actually, Laba will probably take notice and stuff Deuce in his pocket. Again.
And since it's been a few sentences since I mentioned a piece of silverware in the Whitecaps' trophy case, let's talk about the Cascadia Cup. This weekend's tilt is the final, deciding game of the Cup. Seattle are currently leading (boo) by a single point, which you have to think is probably the high-water mark of their season at the moment. Having screwed up their U.S. Open Cup campaign in glorious fashion, the Cascadia Cup has become the Sounders' last realistic shot at nabbing a trophy barring a miracle run towards the Shield and/or MLS Cup. They'll be up for this match, make no mistake - by which I mean they're going to bunker like the dickens for a draw and attempt to hit Vancouver on the counter. As much as we may hate our rivals from Middle Cascadia, they are a better quality side than the last team to try this tactic at BC Place. Obafemi Martins is not Kevin Doyle. Brad Evans is not James Riley. If Seattle close up shop, it will take a coordinated effort with immaculate discipline on the backline to breach the barricades and prevent another debacle from happening. There is silverware and pride on the line here in significant amounts for both sides: Vancouver wants the "Cascadian Double" (no, that's not a coffee order) of Cascadia Cup + domestic cup; Seattle wants something to motivate them enough to save their season, assuming the current implosion of Sporting Kansas City doesn't do it for them. I've been unrelenting in my demands for the "boot-on-throat" mentality - the killer instinct that makes good teams championship teams - to take root in Vancouver; this match, above all others, is the time to prove such a thing has happened.
PREDICTION: 2-1 Vancouver on a late goal, followed by time-wasting tactics that would make the Honduran FA weep with joy. #C6scadia