Tonight's 7 PM match between the Cascadia Cup leader and the Supporters' Shield leader should continue a great soccer Saturday. With Seattle still down several starters for injury and World Cup and Vancouver Whitecaps FC still trying to figure out how to play all there young attackers at once neither side should be considered strong favorites. The 'Caps expanded seating for this one, all the way up to 22,500.
Jon from EightySixForever answers Three Questions to get you ready.
SaH: How's the whole figuring out how to play all that young attacking talent (Mattocks, Hurtado, Teibert, Manneh) thing going?
86er: Anytime you field a lineup of kids, you know that you're going to have to work through some growing pains. That being said, they've all shown individual flashes of brilliance the season. You've got Erik Hurtado and his four match goal streak in regular season play (that has been snapped), Darren Mattocks and the solid, hard working play he was gritting out before his injury, the emergence of Gershon Koffie as a reliable defensive midfielder, as well as Matias Laba as his partner, who has been an absolute revelation in the spot. That's just a few of the kids, and while it's been a ton of fun to watch them when they're on, it can be equally frustrating when they're not.
Since Erik Hurtado ended his goal scoring streak, the 'Caps have dropped a pair of matches, and were shut out in both of them. With so much offensive potential on this club, that really shouldn't happen. If they can't start pumping the ball in the net over the next few matches, expect Carl Robinson to go out and get himself a shiny new striker.
SaH: The defense is strong in the midfield layer, but seems a bit weak in the centerbacks. How are the Whitecaps coping with that?
86er: Despite some recent hip trouble, Andy O'Brien has been the usual rock that he always is, but we're starting to see the decline of Whitecaps Captain Jay Demerit. Demerit is currently on the road to recovery from a tendon tear in his left ankle , but even before that he was not his usual 'Superman' self. While he still could recover and finish out the season strong like he did in 2013, the 'Caps will obviously have CB on their shopping list when they go hunting for new players. For now, they've gone to their bench and seem comfortable using a pairing of O'Brien and young Honduran Johnny Leveron, or 26 year old Carlyle Mitchell. While Leveron plays a calmer game and is great with his feet, Mitchell has the advantage in the air with his superb leaping ability. At this point, none of these guys are ready to be full time fill-ins, while the same needs to be said of rookie Christian Dean. When the transfer window opens on July 9th, expect Robinson to go shopping.
SaH: Are you glad that Dempsey and Yedlin will not be starting?
86er: I imagine most 'Caps fans will be either a) Happy the two won't be able to give the 'Caps fits for a full 90 minutes, or b) Disappointed they won't get to watch two spectacular players for a full 90. Depends on if you're a soccer fan, or a club fan.
Projected lineup: Ousted, Beitashour, Mitchell, Leveron, Harvey, Koffie, Laba, Teibert, Morales, Manneh, Mattocks
Absences: Demerit (ankle, out), Andy O'Brien (hip, questionable)
86er: Obviously Dempsey has been the story of the season for the Sounders so far, but how about Obafemi Martins? Seems like he's having a very solid year.
SaH: A case could be made that Oba is an MVP candidate. He's kept the Sounders on top of the table without Demsey, Evans and Yedlin during USA camp and the World Cup. Martins sits at fourth in both goals (8) and assists (6), a true double threat. How does he do it? First, but being a small target man. Though short his hold-up play is in the top five in MLS at this aspect. His burst speed is unquestionably among the best in the league. Teams that close on him quickly will be punished by his deft passing. He's able to hit Dempsey, Neagle, Barrett and Cooper in the places where they can succeed.
86er: Apparently both Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation. Who replaces them, and how much of a loss is that for Seattle?
SaH: That's got to be Brad Evans and Michael Azira (my saying this probably means Sigi goes a different direction). Evans will take over Pineda's role. He isn't the passer that Gonzalo is, but will win more duels, especially in the air. Azira takes over for Alonso. The Ugandan may be able to match Alonso's range, but that's where their similarities end. Alonso can be a Best XI player. Azira is the 5th best CM on the squad. Overall Seattle will not lose too much defense with these two, but the passing through the middle will be lacking.
86er: Do you think it will take long for Yedlin and Dempsey to re-adjust to MLS play after their World Cup experience?
SaH: I don't expect a significant amount of time to adjust. Yedlin played quite similarly to how Sounders FC use him. He bombs forward and has to race back quickly. Speed is his asset. If anything it will be easier for him. It's not as if he's defending Eden Hazard and Ronaldo in MLS. Dempsey will go from getting bodied and hacked while riding the line to the underneath spaces where he excels. Both are expected to get their first starts against the Portland Timbers in MLS play in front of 67,000. They should be great.
Significant Absences: Dempsey and Yedlin should not play, but could be at the match. Traore, Rose and Remick are all recovering from injuries.
Lineup Guess: Frei; Gonzalez, Scott, Marshall, Anibaba; Neagle, Evans, Azira, Pappa; Martins, Cooper