Did you know that Seattle Sounders FC currently leads the 2014 Cascadia Cup standings after just one game? It takes getting to the sixth tie-breaker (discipline) to make that statement. On Saturday at 4 PM they look to extend that lead when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place.
Vancouver currently sits at 4-2-4 +4 and fourth in the West. At home they are a strong 3-1-1 + 4 at home. Seattle's impressive road record matches up well though (3-1-1 -1).
Jon from 86 Forever answers Three Questions to get you ready for the game.
SaH: What's the shift to a Robinson lead team meant for the 'Caps?
86: It's meant that the best players play, period. A lot of coaches might flinch at the prospect of sitting a $400,000 in favor of young talent, but Robinson has just done that with Nigel Reo-Coker. He's not afraid to play his youth, like we saw during the Amway Canadian Championship when he started 17 year old Marco Carducci in net. The young guys seem to really respond to him as well; Erik Hurtado still looks a bit rough around the edges, but he's miles ahead of where he was last year. Darren Mattocks has rebounded from a brutal year, while Kekuta Manneh has continued his impressive play and deft scoring touch. He was known as a players' coach before he got the job, and it just seems like these guys really enjoy playing for him.
SaH: The speed of Vancouver punished Seattle late last year. How is it similar or different?
86: Very similar, especially if Darren Mattocks is good to go. The speedy Jamaican has missed a few weeks with a sore hamstring, but if he's good to go, he and Kekuta Manneh will be a deadly force up the pitch. If he goes, you can expect to see a lot of deep through balls to the Vancouver forwards. The one area the Whitecaps are different in is their defensive midfield, that's really where you're going to see the most change. Matias Laba and Gershon Koffie have been an absolute revelation as a pairing, and Russell Teibert hasn't missed a beat when he's slid in the position as well. Laba has been a god-send from Toronto, and is quickly becoming the 'Caps best player.
SaH: Coker, Camilo, Kenny Miller. Drama chasing the squad or just typical soccery stuff?
86: Typical soccer stuff. Mattocks has seemingly matured since his off-season of buffoonery, Nigel Reo-Coker hasn't done enough to displace young players like Koffie, Laba and Teibert and so, he's sitting, and Miller left amicably when he realized he would need to take less money and a possible reduced role. Nothing to see here, folks.
Significant Absences: Darren Mattocks (questionable, hamstring)
Projected Lineup: Ousted, Beitashour, O'Brien, Demerit, Harvey, Laba, Koffie, Manneh, Morales, Fernandez, Mattocks (Hurtado if Mattocks injured)
86: Seattle's off to a great start, first in the West. Do they deserve to be in top spot, in your opinion?
SaH: Yes. Though they stole a point from Portland, the loss to the Crew should have been a draw. Every other result was "fair." With an offense this powerful a team should expect to win a lot of games. The defense is a bit suspect, but some of that is the curse of wondergoals and set-pieces against. By the end of this month taking on Vancouver away and Salt Lake at home that top spot will be either fully confirmed, or still in doubt.
86: The Sounders should be a little short-handed thanks to a few USMNT call-ups. How much does that hurt their chances against Vancouver?
SaH: It really changes how Seattle plays. Dempsey is clearly important, but less obvious is the impact of losing the club's two best right backs. Without DeAndre Yedlin there is very little width there. Since Evans is also gone Sounders FC have to change how they play on the right. Anibaba nor Scott can get forward like those two. Instead of space behind the RB there will be space in front of them.
Four words on Dempsey isn't enough. He is dynamic, capable of scoring on nearly any touch. He can score and assist while being the rare MLS player that needs to be man-marked where ever he touches the ball. Even missing these next few games and the two for a "cup check" he will be a top three MVP candidate at the All Star Break.
86: Besides Clint Dempsey, which Sounder has impressed you the most offensively?
SaH: Obafemi Martins will also be on that short discussion for MVPs. The former Inter Milan, Newcastle, Birmingham City, Rubin Kazan, Levante man discovered a new skill this year - he's an assist man. He leads MLS in assists. He does that through clever throughballs and seeing sequences of passes. He's also ninth in scoring. He does that things like this. Pacing may be silly at this point but he's looking at a double-double this year.
Absences: Dempsey, Evans, Yedlin - today at practice Neagle and Okoli moved to doubtful.
Lineup: Frei; Gonzalez, Traore, Marshall, Anibaba; Barrett, Pineda, Alonso, Pappa; Cooper, Martins