Only three teams have more wins than the Seattle Sounders. One of those visits CenturyLink Field at 7 p.m. Saturday when the Vancouver Whitecaps defend the Cascadia Cup. The 'Caps are the best road team in the league with a 6-4-2 +2 record (also only team in MLS with positive goal difference on away from home). Sounders FC are a middle-of-road 7-3-1 +7 in the friendly confines of the CLink.
With a win the Sounders would take their first trophy of the year. Seattle last won the trivalry in 2011.
Jon from 86 Forever answers Three Questions to get you ready for this Major League Soccer match. He'll answer even more next week.
SaH: Former Sounder Mauro Rosales isn't going to play Saturday. How's that change Vancouver's look?
86er: Depending on the availability of Pedro Morales, it may not be a dramatic shift. If Morales is ready to go, he slots in for Rosales, while Carl Robinson can continue to roll out a youngster, say Nicolas Mezquida, in the midfield. It's a bit of bad luck for Vancouver, as Rosales has been sublime for the last few weeks, and that includes a Team of the Week appearance this week. With Morales not at 100% and Rosales out, the creativity in the midfield could take a sharp decline.
SaH: For all the young talent up top (especially minus Rosales) the backline is old and strong. What's kept it performing?
86er: It's been youth lately. While Pa Modou Kah has tried his best to provide veteran leadership and quality play, he's looked slow and overmatched for most of the season. He's had stretches of good performances, but he can't be considered anything more than a stop-gap measure at the position for the team right now. In the last few weeks, Carl Robinson has been giving his youngsters on the defensive end of the pitch a bit more leeway, including a Tim Parker-Christian Dean pairing against the Timbers two weeks ago. Parker, the rookie, and Dean, the Sophomore, looked very solid in the match, and managed to land spots in the starting 11 the following week against the Earthquakes. The backline has looked disjointed all season long, but it looks like Parker or Dean may be able to take over as Kendall Waston's partner full-time before the season is done.
SaH: What would you want from Seattle for Darren Mattocks? Asking for a team that lacks a third scorer.
86er: I'd tell you to save your money. Mattocks has shown improved work ethic and maturity this season and should be commended for it, but his play is the same as it's always been; Inconsistent.
SaH: How will the CCL match next week effect the lineup this week?
86er: Robinson's lineups are always a question mark, but he does tend to go younger when it's not an MLS regular season match. He was criticized for that last year during the Amway Canadian Championship, and I don't think he'll be going with a full youth movement this time around. You may see some more rest-time for the veteran guys as we march through the busy August schedule, but thankfully Robinson has more depth at his disposal, both up front and on the backline, than 2014.
Projected Lineup: Ousted, Beitashour, Waston, Parker. Harvey, Laba, Teibert, Morales, Mezquida, Manneh, Rivero
86er: Is Vancouver viewed as a contender, given they are near the top of the Western Conference?
SaH: Anyone ignoring the Whitecaps at this point is foolish. It's a top defense, somehow doing that with Kah involved. Plus, the attack is young and exciting. Maybe people let their hate for counter-attacking soccer take over, but when Vancouver is successful at it they are fun to watch. Are they the Galaxy, TFC or Seattle (when healthy?) No, but neither is Dallas, or Sporting, or Portland. The West is stacked. One of the bits in that stack is VWFC. Seattle cannot take them lightly.
86er: What is the Sounders biggest weakness?
SaH: Issue one: Scoring when Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins aren't playing. Since there are so many games in August this issue will continue to be a problem. At this point the only solution is one of the other players actually performing well. It's been so long that hope of that is starting to dwindle.
Issue two: Using width in the attack. This is related to the other issue, but it shows up a bit in defense, in that Tyrone Mears is currently the key to getting offensive width. He's the right back, which means the midfield as to compensate for his absence after a turnover.
86er: Where can the Sounders exploit the 'Caps?
SaH: On offense, if Kah plays, it is to use a lot of lateral movement in spaces where he's supposed to be. Kah is still foul and caution prone. The Sounders should exploit that. An early free kick goal can go a long way to rousing the passion of a fanbase looking for hope.
Secondarily, the Sounders need to absorb the counter and burst right back at Vancouver. That can lead to a lot of long ball, but if that's what's available, take it.
Projected Lineup: Perkins; Remick, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Rose, Alonso, Friberg; Neagle, Dempsey, Thomas