Any point earns Seattle Sounders FC the Cascadia Cup, but Seattle's goals this season are much higher than the local rivalry cup. This is a team that can still win the Supporters' Shield. Points over the Vancouver Whitecaps help with that, particularly as this week the team will use most of its games in hand.
To help prepare you for the 7 PM Wednesday night match Jon from Eighty-Six Forever answers Three Questions. Questions were exchanged between Sunday night and Tuesday morning.
SaH: What's the return of Jay DeMerit meant to the defense?
86er: The defense wasn't exactly playing awful without the Captain, with both Carlyle Mitchell and Johnny Leveron excelling in his absence. However, once Demerit stepped back into his starting role, it became clear that he is a step up on his young counterparts. He is able to clear away messes better than most, and you know his positioning is always going to be sound. He's good in the air as well, but his best qualities are his passion and ability to lead and his physicality. With Demerit on the pitch, the Whitecaps have their undisputed general calling the shots, and, along with Nigel Reo-Coker, it gives Vancouver an edge they were sorely missing.
SaH: Is there another squad with a more confusing keeper situation? Ousted seemed to be an odd signing.
86er: Well, the Whitecaps were unhappy with Joe Cannon's play, so they turned to Brad Knighton for the second straight year. It was confusing to most why Ousted was brought in, because Knighton was playing very well in the opportunities he got . His distribution was criticized heavily, but it didn't seem to be enough to knock him from his starting spot. In addition, the 'Caps were forced to give up a great player (Alain Rochat) to make room for Ousted's salary. Now you have three MLS quality keepers on the roster, which is great for depth but almost totally unneeded in every other circumstance. I'm confused as well, to be honest with you.
SaH: Is there any way that Camilo, Mattocks, Miller and Teibert are on the field at the same time? Because that scares me.
86er: Rennie seems to like the 4-3-3, so I think you can quell your fears for now. Plus, Kenny Miller has been fighting an abductor injury for the last few weeks, and it's unclear whether he'll be able to lace up the boots for the Seattle match. If he does, you'll probably have to deal with the three headed monster of Camilo, Miller and Teibert, but Miller will be banged up and Teibert has not looked the same since his great start a few months ago.Finally, it looks like Darren Mattocks is currently grappling with the decision to join his Jamaican National team when they play the USA this friday. While the 'Caps still have bite to their attack, it might be missing a few teeth.
Significant Absences (Injury, Callup): D Johnny Leveron, F Darren Mattocks (possibly), F Kenny Miller (Abductor, questionable)
Projected Lineup: Ousted, Lee, Mitchell, Demerit, Harvey, Koffie, Reo-Coker, Kobayashi, Teibert, Camilo, Mattocks (?)
86er: The Sounders made that huge signing in the off-season, bringing in Obafemi Martins. How's he been playing?
SaH: Oba's been good. He's adapted to MLS quicker than many older DPs that come over from Europe. His numbers are pretty good, but what is clear is that he's got great "MLS" skills. He's fast, willing to use his body, energetic and shoots often enough to endanger the goal. Seattle's offense will try to spring him over the top, with throughballs or hope that he picks up a rebound.
He is also quite expressive. This isn't a distant Henry, but a many who shares his joys and angers in every match. He's got a knack for winners and amazing misses. Even without the Dempsey addition Seattle changed things when the pursued and signed a man away from Levante.
86er: Seattle is second in the West, but have scored just 40 goals this season. Is that a concern moving forward, or can this club score goals?
SaH: With the talent on the squad the offense shouldn't be so poor. Yet, it is. If Seattle makes a run in the MLS Cup Playoffs the attack has to get better. A good to great defense and an attack that performs at its talent level will dominate. If the struggles to connect from the midfield to the forwards or the over-passing around the 18 continue then Seattle will fall out of the Playoffs as they have before. They may win a series, maybe even two, but without the offense putting up a goal and a half a game or more the second season is going to end too early.
86er: Have the 'Caps arrived as a heated rival for this Seattle team?
SaH: No. This is an idealistic rivalry. The type that thoughtful sports personalities dream every team has. There will not be the anger on the pitch nor the venom in the stands. It will be harsher than most clubs, but no where near Portland and probably not near what is felt towards LA. But, it matters.
Rivalry doesn't need to be hate. It can be two teams that want victory with the depth of their souls and yet are unwilling to break rules and have fans that come to blows (even verbal ones). The best example of that is probably the USA's Army-Navy game. They don't hate each other. They are clearly rivals. That's kind of like what Vancouver and Seattle have, without the going to war together.
It helps that there is a trophy on the line.
Significant Absences (injury, callup): Shalrie Joseph (injured), Eddie Johnson (USMNT), Brad Evans (USMNT), Zach Scott (suspension)
Projected Lineup (subject to change after Tuesday practice): Gspurning; Burch, Traore, Hurtado, Yedlin; Alonso; Neagle, Moffat, Rosales; Dempsey, Martins
* subject to change again