Way back in 1974, before there were Timbers, before there was Dave, there were Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps. This is a rivalry without hate. It is long, and in a majority of its existence was between the two better teams in Cascadia. The two nautical teams of Cascadia were the ones that contested trophies, while the Timbers managed to exist (often failing at even that).
It is fitting that the Sounders and Whitecaps meet for the annual Heritage Match, because now both teams can look up to Portland and see their quest for 2018. Only the Rose City sits above the red line, while two nautical teams look as likely to sink as to swim.
Caleb from Eighty Six Forever answers Three Questions. The questions were exchanged over twitter Thursday and Friday. There was no attempt at guessing lineups.
SaH: What is Brek Shea’s role and how does he impact the success/failure of the Whitecaps?
86er: I don’t know and they don’t either. What you have to understand about Shea is he’s not on the team because the Whitecaps want him. Carl Robinson didn’t kick down Bob Lenerduzzi’s door screaming “I need Brek Shea!” Shea is simply the end result of a series of panic buys and bad decisions. Back in 2016 Whitecaps striker and DP Octavio Rivero was in a slump of epic proportions and dealing with homesickness. So the ’Caps sold him to Chilean side Colo Colo. Needing a striker, the Whitecaps traded for Fabian Espindola from D.C. As it turned out though, Espindola was not cool with this trade in the slightest and refused to play for the Whitecaps. So Vancouver flipped Espindola to Necaxa of LigaMX. With the transfer window about to shut, the Whitecaps desperately needed a striker so they traded for Houston’s Giles Barnes. Barnes was not a good fit, so the Whitecaps tried to offload him as well. There wasn’t a lot of interest within MLS because Barnes was on a terrible contract for what he provided; the Whitecaps couldn’t even give him away. Blackburn Rovers were going to take him on a free transfer, but the board cancelled the transfer because they couldn’t match Barnes’ wage demands. Eventually the Whitecaps agreed a deal with Orlando where they swapped bad contracts. Barnes went to Orlando with Shea coming back the other way. To an extent this trade worked out for the Whitecaps. Shea has contributed a lot more than Barnes ever did, but he’s still on a bad contract that makes him pretty much unmovable. So the Whitecaps only real option is to try and fit him in somewhere. They’ve tried him at various times as a striker, winger, and fullback. In all three positions he’s been alright but has never come anywhere near being worth his DP level contact.
SaH: Will this be Alphonso Davies final year with Vancouver?
86er: Unless whoever he’s sold to loans him back, yes. There’s some big clubs circling and a lot of money involved.
SaH: The ‘Caps have one of the worst defenses in the league and yet are contending for a playoff spot. Will they be above the redline at the end of the year?
86er: I highly doubt it. Anything could happen but they haven’t shown any consistency or indicated in anyway that they have a plan to be good. Shea is far from the only player who’s role is unclear. The Whitecaps seem to get players simply because they are available without putting any thought into how they are going to compliment each other. The result is a team that, despite a few flashes of brilliance, looks rudderless.
86er: The Sounders are well off the playoff pace. Where has it gone wrong?
SaH: Everything — injury, suspension, coaching errors, leaving valuable roster spots open, dumb keeper mistakes, dumb defensive errors, players aging out. At the First Team level it’s nearly impossible to find a player, coach or front office staffer who should not share blame for the start to 2018. There’s reason to hope now, but it may be too late.
86er: Will the signing of Ruidiaz do what the signing of Lodeiro did in 2016 or are the problems to deep for one signing to fix?
SaH: The injuries are starting to fade away. McCrary is suspended, but this is only the second suspension since the three-match streak to start the season. Coach Brian Schmetzer seems more capable of coaching a squad that is nearly at full strength than one with huge holes.
That leaves two major questions — can the ancient Dempsey and Alonso start to play like a shadow of themselves, and is Ruidiaz what Nkufo, Lodeiro, and Leerdam were? There’s a rather strong chance he is. Those three other times the Sounders went on massive runs after signings. Adding a 20-goal-a-year scorer to this offense will be a massive help.
Dempsey and Alonso will determine their own worth.
86er: Which Seattle player, that Whitecaps fans probably don’t know about, should they be more aware of?
SaH: Welcome to Cristian Roldan’s Sounders. The adopted son of Seattle (he’s actually from California) is a United States National Team player, occasional captain, a defensive stalwart, smart passer, and leader.
He doesn’t inspire fear as Alonso did when he was at his best, but he’s more likely to win the ball now than Ozzie is. Roldan’s biggest question mark comes because of his position — he’s at his best playing as an ‘8.’ Most of the systems that the Sounders and USMNT run don’t really use a box-to-box midfielder, but in Seattle he still plays like that, getting forward more often than his partner in holding mid. It will take time for America/Canada to realize it, but Roldan is one of the top 20 non-scoring/assisting players in the league, right now. He’s still got time to improve.