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Pre-Game: Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps

KICKOFF: 1 p.m. PT | TV: TSN1 | RADIO: TSN 1040

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Hopes have been raised. Expectations have been heightened. Two wins on the trot have infused the Vancouver Whitecaps and their supporters with a smidgeon of optimism for this weekend's Cascadia clash. But the playoffs are still a long way from reach and the Seattle Sounders are nearing their best form of the season. Clinging onto a point is a tough ask at Centurylink field. A win would be unlikelier still. However, magic has happened in games like this before. A few years ago the Whitecaps also had a mercurial teenager in their squad, and on that fateful night (October 9th, 2013), Kekuta Manneh scored a hat trick. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, Alphonso Davies.

Realistically, this is probably going to be the game that silences the Whitecaps' hopes for a playoff spot once and for all. The current squad is missing vital pieces and even then, the strongest players on the team aren't firing on all cylinders. The Sounders are on the other end of the spectrum, climbing their way up the Western Conference standings and steadily eclipsing a sluggish start to the season. Nicolas Lodeiro has been a revelation in rave green and Jordan Morris, though not setting the world on fire, has done more than enough to cement his place among the top MLS rookies, both of 2016 and of all time.

If (when*) the Whitecaps are defeated this weekend, Caps fans can still look on the bright side. A relatively meaningless stretch of games should mean a slew of chances for youngsters that have been otherwise neglected this year. Alphonso Davies will likely be used heavily through the last few games, as should Marco Bustos, Brett Levis, Kianz Froese, Ben McKendry and Cole Seiler. Qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals means the 2017 season will start earlier and (as has just been announced) an adventurous and intriguing preseason awaits.

Prediction: Sounders 2 - 0 Whitecaps

Thoughts? Prayers? Hopes? Dreams? Comment Below!