Sounders v Whitecaps - Three Questions

Jeff Vinnick

This may not be the fiercest rivalry for the Sounders. Still, a number in the low 50 thousands will show up on a Saturday night for an early regular season game between two sides that will play the first of their 58 total matches on grass.

When the Vancouver Whitecaps come to town it will be party tens of thousands strong. The two clubs have similar 39 year histories and many connections. Vancouver's pre-MLS quality on the field may be slightly higher, but in this league it is Seattle that controls the history. With Seattle Sounders FC down so many players the 'Caps chose this week to trade away one of their team strengths and sent left back Alain Rochat to D.C. United for future draft picks.

That could have ruined one of Three Questions, but Jon from EightySixForever rolled with it and helps you prepare yourself for the post-Rochat era.

SaH: Nigel Reo-Coker is providing defensive bit, but also support in maintaining possession. Does he belong in the "best CM in MLS" conversation?

86er: I may be a bit biased, but I definitely think so. He's easily been the most valuable Whitecap this season, and just appears to be the whole package. In addition to the defensive prowess and possession skill you touched on, he's been a natural leader, taking young players like Russell Teibert under his wing and making their games better. He could also take the most exciting player award, as his surging runs up the pitch have become a staple at BC Place. The Whitecaps did manage to beat the New York Red Bulls without Reo-Coker in the lineup, but it was clear he was dearly missed. His strong play has certainly made life without Captain Jay Demerit easier, and the fact that he hasn't even hit 30 yet just makes the whole situation better.

SaH: Vancouer may have the best fullbacks in MLS. How do they work within the system?

86er: To tell you the truth, the Whitecaps backline might be a bit disjointed this weeekend. The recent trade of Alain Rochat will send ripples throughout the defensive system, as now a depth player like Brad Rusin or Jordan Harvey will need to be inserted into the lineup in a very hostile Seattle environment. (That's meant in a good way for you guys.) However, the Whitecaps still have YP Lee to calm things down, and Center Back Andy O'Brien will be counted upon to provide stability and leadership. I'm not sure if that answers your question, but the once 'etched-in-stone' defensive lineup for the 'Caps has been jumbled around, and we're not yet sure who's stepping in.

SaH: I'm confused about the forward situation. Why isn't Miller always up top when healthy?

86er: Well, he's been injured for most of the season, which was actually a big blow considering he had two goals in his first two matches. Now, when he isn't battling the injury bug, he has to contend with players like Darren Mattocks, Camilo, Erik Hurtado and Kektua Manneh for time at the top of the triangle. Camilo has actually looked the best there recently, while Miller has looked just as good wide. In fact, the attacking trio of Camilo, Russell Teibert and Miller have been the best combination Martin Rennie has had all season long, so I can't imagine he'll want to mess with their chemistry from match to match. The short answer is; he's a versatile player who could easily go up top, but right now the hot foot is Camilo, so Martin Rennie is going with him.

Significant Losses (Injury/National Team duty): GERSHON KOFFIE-QUESTIONABLE, DARREN MATTOCKS-OUT (INTERNATIONAL DUTY)

Projected Lineup: BRAD KNIGHTON, YP LEE, JOHNNY LEVERON, ANDY O'BRIEN, JORDAN HARVEY, JUN-MARQUES DAVIDSON, NIGEL REO-COKER, GERSHON KOFFIE (if still injured, Matt Watson), RUSSELL TEIBERT, KENNY MILLER, CAMILO.

* * *
reverse

86er: Obafemi Martins had his red card rescinded and will play this weekend. How big of a plus is that for Seattle?

SaH: Sigi Schmid's choices are quite depleted for the weekend so keeping Obafemi on the field is a big deal. He's a true difference maker in how he uses his speed, his touch is world class and he strikes the ball quite well. Without him Seattle would be using a 3rd and 4th forward, a 4th choice left mid, 3rd and 5th choice centermids. That is no way to face a rival. Even with him that's a weakened roster, but at least with him they have one of the men capable of changing a game with a single touch. When a team is playing with a dramatically reduced midfield the forwards must take advantage of their rare touches.

86er: Besides Martins, who do the Whitecaps need to pay attention to on the Sounders?

SaH: Lamar Neagle is having a breakout year where he's redefined who he is as a player, but most of your attention should be at the backline. DeAndre Yedlin is going to burst forward from right back and both over & under lap with Mauro Rosales. 'Caps fans will think that means that there is open space behind him, but his recovery speed is amazing. Some attention should also be paid to Djimi Traore. Originally brought in as the third CB after a competition between he and Portland's Silvestre he has become a stalwart on the backline. His strong aerial ability and the way he reads the game means that the best way to beat him is to not go at him.

86er: What's up with the Sounders struggles this season? What do they need to do better?

SaH: Early in the season they were creating more chances but not finishing them. Now there are less chances but they so often become goals. It seems really simple, but Seattle is a good team with significant injuries and national team call-ups that is merely average due to that. When they finish they look great, when they don't they don't. When they play LA they don't finish and forget how to play defense.

Projected Lineup/Significant losses

The following players are out for various reasons - Alonso (injury), Zakuani (injury), Johnson (USA), Evans (USA), Martinez (Honduras), Joseph (suspension) so the lineup is both fairly well set with debates at RCB and LM, but the rest is rock solid.

Gspurning - Gonzalez, Traore, Scott, Yedlin; Carrasco; Caskey, Rose, Rosales; Neagle, Martins

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