Twenty-sixteen's quest to retain the Cascadia Cup starts with a match between two 0-2 -2 sides that most projected to be likely MLS Cup Playoff teams. Each team has been hit with a red card in their losses, injuries and dumb, stupid luck. The Vancouver Whitecaps are not this bad. The Seattle Sounders are not this bad. Both fanbases are not happy, and here in the Puget Sound portion of the Salish Sea there is reason to worry and impatience for that first victory. Saturday's 7 PM match could be just that.
Bartosz from 86 Forever answers Three Questions. The lineup projections are subject to larger than normal volatility as the injury status of some players is still TBD.
SaH: Are 'Caps fans panicking? I ask because the Sounders fanbase seems all whirled up after going 0-2.
86er: DEFCON 1 is not yet in effect, but there definitely have been instances in the past 180 minutes of play that are leaving us Caps fans biting our fingernails. Conceding five goals in two matches is never a good a good thing; it's even worse when last season you had the league's best defensive record. Up front, three goals in the same period are acceptable, but what's worrying is that defenders have two of them and the third came from a penalty.
We have the pieces there to get better results, but they have to start coming at some point. Unfortunately, when you're going to Century Link to try and pick up your first points of the year, there's a fair chance that you'll be leaving empty handed.
SaH: Vancouver's right side is new. What do Aird and Bolanas bring to the squad?
86er: Aird and Bolanos definitely have large shoes to fill after the departures of Beitashour and Rosales. From Bolanos we hope that he can bring experience and level headed play to the squad (i.e. not getting suspended after the first game). Having a world cup veteran on a squad is always a plus, and hopefully he'll be able to bring his creativity and nose for the goal to the Caps.
Aird is more of a wildcard. A 21 year old defender brings certain risks, and those were certainlty exposed in the season opener when Piatti gave him a freshman welcome that left him dazed and confused. However, there was definitely an improvement in the second match, and hopefully with a veteran playing on his wing he'll only get better with time.
SaH: Crossing into Waston/Parker is a bad idea. What's the best way to beat the central defence?
86er: This entirely depends on which Waston/Parker duo decides to play. If it's the pairing that was present last week, then sending in crosses isn't exactly the worst idea. There were definitely too many free headers allowed versus Kansas City.
However, assuming that the Waston/Parker tandem we are used to shows up, then a cross is a wasted kick. As cliché as it sounds, you need to keep it on the ground against our big guys. The first two games of this season have shown that when you quickly switch the ball, our defense loses their markers and leaves tons of open space. As well, Waston is prone to receiving yellows by trucking through attackers waiting to receive the ball. If you can get someone up top who knows how to shield the ball with his back to goal, there's a big chance that Waston will end up getting a caution.
Projected Lineup: (4-2-3-1)
Ousted, Harvey, Parker, Waston, Aird, Laba, Flores, Manneh, Morales, Bolanos, Riveiro
86er: This is your first 0-2 start since 2011. Is this simply a case of not playing to your potential, or are there more fundamental issues to be worried about?
SaH: It is both a simple case of not playing to potential (playing down a man for more than a half is pretty awful) and shows there are fundamental issues. Seattle went all-in on a top heavy roster. It is maybe 12 or 13 players deep, with one of those starting the season recovering from an ACL injury. That lack of depth is concern when injury or form force lineup changes. If players like Clint Dempsey, Nelson Haedo Valdez and Jordan Morris aren't performing their backups are an assortment of HGPs and former S2 players that have no history of success at the MLS level. It's frightening and exists everywhere but on the backline (there is depth there). While Sounders scheduled around international breaks this year in order to reduce the demands on their depth, that doesn't avoid injury and the fact that their attacking players are kind of sucky right now.
86er: The loss of Obafemi Martins will without a doubt be felt this season. Who do you hope will pick up the slack up front?
SaH: It's got to be a group of players. Martins is one of four or five players that entered every MLS season as a potential MVP. Losing that sucks. Now, Seattle will need to count on a combination of Jordan Morris (we'll get to that) and two of the Summer acquisitions last year - Nelson Haedo Valdez and Andreas Ivanschitz. There may also be a new DP in the near future, but 'Caps fans won't need to worry about that yet.
Valdez is target forward who isn't tall, but still wins the ball well. He has superior hold up play and decent runs. The biggest issue so far for Nelson is that he isn't scoring. He's been in the right spots, so it should probably come. It hasn't yet, but it should.
Ivanschitz is a set-play specialist with a wonderful left foot. He sees the game well and can shoot from distance a little bit. Playing as the primary playmaker on the team his job isn't to score too much, but the team needs him to get 4-6 goals this year, mainly because there isn't an Oba.
86er: How do you see last year's NCAA player of the year Jordan Morris fitting into the squad this season?
SaH: Morris is the Sounders right wing in their 4-3-3, but he plays as a rather narrow version of such, looking to cut in and score rather than cross (ala Zusi). In some matches Jordan will play as the center forward late in the game. At this point his biggest lesson is on timing his runs. He's been offside by less than a yard a half dozen times. Any of those could have been a goal if he or the playmaker had been on the same page. If Morris gets that timing down he'll be the goal scorer that people expect (8-10ish).
Projected Lineup: Frei; J.Jones, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Alonso, Roldan; Ivanschitz; D.Jones, Dempsey, Morris