The implications for this Cascadia Cup match extend throughout the table. For Seattle their chances at the Supporters' Shield change; Vancouver's contest with Portland to be the West's fifth best could come down to points here; LA is watching; Dallas wants a home game in the Playoffs. It's a big night of Friday Night Futbol on NBC Sports at 7 PM.
Plus, the Cascadia Cup is on the line. Sounders FC is hosting an alumni game. The full stadium is open. The fortieth anniversary celebration will reach its zenith.
Get ready for the game with Jon from EightySixForever answering Three Questions.
SaH: What's Mauro meant to Vancouver in his short time there?
86er: Mauro Rosales has been a great fit in midfield for the Whitecaps, making quite the dangerous pairing with Whitecaps Captain Pedro Morales. Mauro has a similar skill set to Pedro with his creativity, vision and mesmerizing passes, a welcome addition to a club that was struggling to get any kind of offense going. Even better, Mauro provides the Whitecaps with depth in midfield, and could easily slide into the #10 spot should Pedro go down with injury (knock on wood), or just need a rest. It's well known in Vancouver that Pedro has been looking fatigued lately and could very well use a break, if the Whitecaps manage to nab a few points and increase their lead on the Portland Timbers, I think he would get exactly that. However, if this dead heat lasts the final stretch of the season, Pedro will no doubt be happy he's not the only offensive catalyst in the 'Caps mid anymore. If the Whitecaps had a true goal scorer up front, this would be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league, and it would start with both Morales and Rosales. Couldn't be happier with the addition.
SaH: Which of the international losses will hurt the Whitecaps most?
86er: Carlyle Mitchell has mostly been a depth option at this point, and is really only known for providing the 'Caps with the 'blunder of the season', for his unbelievable hand ball against FC Dallas in July. The Darren Mattocks call-up hurts a little bit more, if only because the Whitecaps are thin up front for this match. Omar Salgado is on loan, and Sebastian Fernandez is suspended for the match because of yellow card accumulation, so the 'Caps will have to lean a bit on Erik Hurtado and Kekuta Manneh. The thing is, it's not like Darren Mattocks has lit the world on fire offensively and is an essential cog in the machine, he's struggled mightily and more was expected from him. I would argue that while the call-ups have put a dent in the Whitecaps depth chart, neither of the losses have particularly 'hurt' the team. I assume the call-up to Mattocks will mean Hurtado will keep his spot in the starting 11, while the suspension to Fernandez might mean Kekuta Manneh could also get the nod.
SaH: How important is the Cascadia Cup to the organization and the fans?
86er: It's important. I mean, when the 'Caps actually nabbed the award in 2013, it was almost a sense of arrival for the club as an actual player in the Western Conference, as they were able to start posting some winning results against their Cascadia rivals. They've managed to build on that this season and are once again in the running for the trophy, but the real exciting thing about this year is the circumstances surrounding the showodwn.
The storyline going into the match pretty much sells itself; 'Caps win, and the Southsiders are hoisting the trophy once again. Lose, and heartbreak. Should be interesting to see which 'Caps team decides to show up away from the comfy confines of BC Place, and with a major challenge in front of them. God, I love sports.
Projected Lineup: Ousted, Beitashour, O'Brien, Waston, Harvey, Laba, Teibert, Rosales, Morales, Manneh, Hurtado
86er: Same question to you; how important is the Cascadia Cup to the Seattle organization and fans?
SaH: Among the fans it's kind of split. For the diehards, it's a huge deal. But there is an element that is new to soccer, loves the Sounders and is a bit confused. The mainstream sports media in the area will make a huge deal out of the Apple Cup between Washington State University and the University of Washington. They will then mock the Cascadia Cup as some invented thing with no meaning.
There is no dichotomy among the players or the coaches. They want it. Players like to win shiny things. They don't like it when other teams have shiny things. It also helps that three points on Friday night puts winning the Supporters' Shield on simple path.
86er: The attack is clearly working, but how can the club improve on defending?
SaH: Seattle's defense is a bit misunderstood. It's actually better than people think it is. That doesn't mean it's great. It may only be a top third defense in the league, but still capable of shut outs at a strong rate. Early in the season they were prone to errors in closing space around the top of the box and out on the right elbow. Most of the issues related to how Yedlin works are solved, but not completely. The top of the box issues are solved. Now the issue is that the "not Marshall" centerback is a weakness that can be exploited. That's not something that can be easily solved. If the left back can provide support that could be a solution.
86er: Is Obafemi Martins your pick for league MVP? If so, why?
SaH: I've written about this recently and my feelings don't really change. The numbers are really close. So it really comes down to silly semantics and emotions. I think on the "value" argument Oba has meant more than Keane while BWP and Valeri are really important, but on bad teams. Emotions are pretty easy. Oba plays with a joy and wonderment. His spirit is infectious. That deserves a reward.
Lineup prediction: Frei; Gonzalez, Scott, Marshall, Evans; Neagle, Azira, Alonso, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins