With an eight-match winning streak (11 unbeaten) the Seattle Sounders end the international break with the opportunity to win their first trophy of 2018. The Cascadia Cup will be theirs with a win or a draw over regional rivals Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. A loss could still result in the Sounders taking the cup, but it would require specific results.
Winning the Cascadia Cup would also continue the second half surge that is the hallmark of Brian Schmetzer’s teams. Entering weekend action, the Sounders are 6th in the West, with the opportunity to emerge as high as 4th with the proper results.
Tyler Dahl of Eighty Six Forever answers Three Questions.
SaH: If the Whitecaps jump over the red line how will they do it?
86er: For the Whitecaps to make the playoffs it’ll take them getting full results in the three matches against teams they are directly competing with. That means beating the Sounders on Saturday, beating the Galaxy on the Sept. 29, and finishing the season the right way against the Timbers on Oct. 28. If they win those games and get least 4 points in the other 4 matches they have left, they will get in. To beat those teams the Caps will have to be the team we saw for 80 minutes against the Quakes a couple Saturdays ago.
SaH: Is a playoff appearance the only way Carl Robinson keeps his job?
86er: I think the only way Robbo keeps his job this season is by going deeeeep into the playoffs. Anything less just means the team is in stasis or regressing, and in either case it’s not a good look.
SaH: What’s the key to the defense, when it is successful?
86er: The key to the Whitecaps D is the middle three; Kendall Waston, Doneil Henry and Aly Ghazal. If they can maintain the middle and shut down anything moving in and at the top of the box the attackers are going to have a tough time.
Projected lineup: Stefan Marinovic, Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Doniel Henry, Brett Levis, Aly Ghazal, Russell Teibert, Brek Shea, Yordy Reyna, Alphonso Davies, Kei Kamara.
86er: Which Sounders player has surprised you the most this season and why?
SaH: When Garth Lagerwey grabbed another player off the scrap heap of the China Super League it was so that the team could fill some depth concerns as the 2nd and 3rd best CBs would be away at the World Cup. Instead what he found in Kim Kee-hee is a strong center back who can roam forward and impact games in the attack. Kim’s defense isn’t just good — if he was more well-known nationally he would be in the Chad Marshall Defender of the Year conversation and Best XI talk. The Sounders needed to get younger at CB. Lagerwey’s addition isn’t just younger, he’s better than a World Cup captain.
86er: The Sounders MO for the last couple of seasons has been turning it on the second half. Do you see them going full throttle for the last few matches and getting up into home field advantage territory?
SaH: Their great defense and middling attack is good enough to finish fourth, of that I have no doubt. If they can unlock Raúl Ruidíaz and produce an offense that climbs into the territory with other playoff sides, they will continue their run. Getting the bye would require a failure by a couple teams, but that third spot is available. It’s not like LAFC, RSL, PDX are complete squads. With a Ruidíaz scoring even every third match the Sounders are a complete team.
86er: What is the best memory you have of the derby and why?
SaH: It wasn’t a moment on the field, but way back in 2011. when the Sounders won it in Vancouver, former USL Sounder Preston Burpo was up in the stands with the fans. He wasn’t one of the most well known players from that era, so much of the game he enjoyed as a fan. After the victory and the Cup ceremony someone saw him and made certain he held the Cascadia Cup aloft. Burpo raising the Cup as a fan encapsulated so much history. Things like that are part of why this sport is popular in Cascadia. We three have embraced our roots and grown trees that will last lifetimes of lifetimes.
Projected Line-up: Stefan Frei; Brad Smith, Chad Marshall, Kim Kee-hee, Kelvin Leerdam; Osvaldo Alonso, Gustav Svensson; Harry Shipp, Nicolas Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan; Raúl Ruidíaz
The squad rotation will happen midweek.