Whitecaps ready for cross-border rivalry
Vancouver Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)
There's always a certain buzz when the Seattle Sounders come to town.
This time around, it's no different. And for the Vancouver Whitecaps, there might be even more incentive to shut down their foes from below the border.
You see, for the first time since joining Major League Soccer, the 'Caps are defending the Cascadia Cup — contested between Vancouver, Seattle, and the Portland Timbers, and awarded to the team with the best head-to-head record at the end of the MLS regular season.
There's certainly something more than bragging rights to play for, despite it being just the 11th regular season game this year.
"It's a very important match for us," said head coach Carl Robinson. "Arguably they are the best team right now in this division, so it's a good test for us. But we're at home, we know our supporters are right behind us, and I'll make sure the guys are right up for it.
"It's a super game to play in."
Both sides will be missing players as Whitecaps defender Steven Beitashour is with Iran's national team while the Sounders are without forward Clint Dempsey, midfielder Brad Evans, and defender DeAndre Yedlin — who are with the American national team. Even so, Seattle leads the Western Conference with a record of 8-3-1.
"It's a huge game, and we're focusing on it this whole week," Erik Hurtado. "We take pride in that.
"I don't get too focused on their players … and whether they have players with the U.S. team or not, we're going to approach the game the same way."
The Whitecaps are coming off an extended break, and are unbeaten in their last four MLS matches — winning two and tying two.
Darren Mattock, who missed the last three Whitecaps games with a hamstring injury, is questionable for the derby match at BC Place on Saturday — not having taken part in a full practice with the team yet. But this week, the 23-year-old Jamaican striker tried to remain optimistic and voiced his enthusiasm for suiting up in a game of this importance.
"It's Seattle," Mattocks said. "It's for sure a big occasion. It's a Cascadian rivalry and the club values every game, but this one is just a little more special. I'm being optimistic, but I'm also being realistic that if it's not ready by Saturday, then it's not ready."